NARSAD Grant-Funded Study Identifies Disrupted Brain Communication in Schizophrenia and Bipolar Disorder

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Alan Anticevic, Ph.D., Expert on Schizophrenia and Bipolar Disorder
Alan Anticevic, Ph.D.

Alan Anticevic, Ph.D., Assistant Professor in Psychiatry at the Yale School of Medicine, used his NARSAD Young Investigator Grant to pursue a project examining connectivity between the thalamus, a deep brain area considered to be a central hub of communication, and the rest of the brain. Using state-of-the-art functional neuroimaging, Dr. Anticevic and colleagues at Yale discovered a specific communication glitch in patients with schizophrenia, and to a lesser degree in patients with bipolar disorder. The new findings, reported online July 3rd in the journal Cerebral Cortex, may offer an important “biomarker” (or biological predictor) for psychiatric illnesses. Very few biomarkers yet exist for mental illnesses and they are crucial to enable psychiatrists to diagnose illness based on biological measures in addition to observable behavior.

In the current study, the Yale team compared brain scans of 90 patients with schizophrenia and 90 healthy “controls” – and then repeated the analysis with patients with bipolar disorder. They found communication was altered significantly between the thalamus and other regions of the brain―over-connectivity from the thalamus to sensory-motor areas (closely correlated with symptoms) but under-connectivity to the prefrontal cortex―in individuals with schizophrenia and, to a lesser degree, in those with bipolar disorder. The findings also offer further evidence of some shared neurobiology between these two illnesses.  

“This data provides the first brain-wide evidence that cortical-thalamic functional connectivity is profoundly altered in schizophrenia, and strongly supports the hypothesis that neuropsychiatric conditions with shared symptoms actually exist on a continuum of brain activity,” said Dr. Anticevic, lead author of the study.

Other former NARSAD Grantees involved in this study include John Krystal, M.D., David Glahn, Ph.D., and Godfrey Pearlson, M.B.B.S., M.D.

For more information about this research, read about it on Yale’s website.

Featured in a blog on Summer Science by Dr. Thomas Insel, Director of the NIMH.

Article comments

Interesting! I have a disrupted brain and I am very close to a diagnosis of some form of schizophrenia or schitzo-effective. I started taking risperdal and it has quieted down the noise a great deal.

I observed in my son Gabriel 44, he starts a sentence does not finish it, when I ask him to continue he says never mind!

Is it possible that the pituitary gland and pineal gland also have a connection to schizophrenia and bi-polar? Ancient religious texts from different religions also mention a "defect" with the energy in the pineal gland and pituitary gland that create psychotic symptoms... And these written texts go back thousands of years... What do we have to lose by looking at those two important glands as well?

This may sound hokey and "woo woo" but holistic psychic Edgar Cayce also said the same thing about the thalamus gland and mental "disturbances" -- why not check out the ARE (Association for Research and Enlightenment) Institute in Virginia and research what this world famous "sleeping psychic" had said over 80 years ago about mental disturbances.. ???

Thanks so much for all your work into the cause of schizophrenia. I've lived with it for 30 years. Maybe not my generation but the future sufferers will benefit from your research. Keep up the excellent work!

I hate to rain on your parade but unless these studies were carried out on NON-medicated test subjects these findings are worthless. Anti-psychotics and mood stabilizers alter brain functions and circuitry - that's how they "knock down" symptoms. If these studies were carried out on medicated patients then there is a good chance that what you're seeing is the effects of psychiatric drugs on the brain.

Totally agree with you Anti - psychotics alter anyone's brain who takes them. Ninety subjects is not a number to make this research fair dink-um at all. The brain is much more complex that a set of images that are looked on a screen. It almost measures up with,to put it bluntly witch doctor nonsense.

Yes has the thought about trauma and the developing brain and the architecture of the brain come on lets look at the sciences and not have this one sided view. 90 people is hardly enough people to validate this or even take it seriously. Look at attachment theory and trauma and what that does to peoples brains or the ACE study.

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