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Study: Flu in Pregnancy Linked to Schizophrenia

“In a small 64-family sample, researchers found the risk of developing the major mental disorder in adult offspring rose seven-fold if the expectant mother had the flu during the first trimester.” (Yahoo! News)

The study established no added risk from a flu infection in the second half of pregnancy.

A number of researchers are busy looking at links between viral infection in utero and the development of schizophrenia. For some reason, despite schizophrenia being a fairly common disorder, said to consistently affect approximately 1% of populations across the globe, it has been rarer candidates than the ubiquitous influenze virus that researchers have investigated.

Controversy continues about whether schizophrenia is an inherited or acquired brain disorder, probably because it is both. I think the hypothesis that best fits the observed data is that schizophrenic disease consists of

  • a nonfamilial variety in which patients show little or no response to medications, demonstrate fixed deficits and cognitive dysfunction, show suggestions of a seasonal pattern to their birthdates, and show structural brain changes on scanning — this is probably due to a perinatal insult which has disrupted crucial organizing processes of neural tissue in certain brain regions, of which a viral infection is one possible cause
  • and a familial variety without changes in brain imaging or neurocognitive functions, and with better medication response.This is the one that involves a “chemical imbalance” in the functioning of various synaptic and neurotransmitter systems, which is exactly the level upon which ‘antipsychotic’ medications act.

As long as two utterly separate diseases are lumped together, significant differences will get washed out of most research studies trying to compare ‘schizophrenics’ with any non-‘schizophrenic’ population.

This bifurcated concept of schizophrenia is of course not original to me, but rather has been put forth by illustrious psychiatric thinkers. Nevertheless, it is astounding to me how thoroughly it is ignored. The bulk of my colleagues persist in speaking of schizophrenic ‘subtypes’ within a unitary disease even though there is little besides historical tradition supporting such a notion.

And while we’re at it, bulk of year’s virus infections pinned to one man. (CNET News)