A new study shows a potential link between traumatic events early in a child’s life and the development of mental illnesses such as schizophrenia.
Researchers used rats in their study. They removed them from their mothers for a 24-hour period and then examined their behavior, protein concentrations and brain functions into adulthood.
Indiana University Purdue University professor Christopher Lapish says the rodents demonstrated a number of brain changes that mimic those observed in humans suffering from schizophrenia or other mental illnesses.
“Schizophrenia is really the most natural fit because of the kind of, behavioral, and structural and functional phenotype it evoked in these animals,” he says. “But it would have other application for other things like addiction and post-traumatic stress disorder, and things like that.”
Sarine Janetsian-Fritz is the study’s co-author. She says aside from schizophrenia, this maternal deprivation could result in a number of disorders including depression, bipolar disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder.
Lapish says the goal of the study is to determine how an early-life traumatic event can change a person’s brain structure and functions later in life.
“We’re trying to look to see if some of the process that we do see in humans, like differences in communications between certain brain regions, alterations in behavior, if we can mimic those in the rat,” he says.
These findings have led researchers to new clues about the development of neuropsychiatric disorders like schizophrenia.
Lapish says this research is just the first step to learning more about the disease in order to treat it more effectively. He says the key to making headway on new treatment approaches and therapies for the disease is by further understanding how it alters the brain.