A recent research led by a group of British scientists showed that degeneration of one particular neural network located within the grey matter region of the human brain results in schizophrenia and Alzheimer’s disease. This specific brain network, scientists found, is the last part of the brain to develop and the first one to degenerate due to aging or early life disorders.
The team of researchers was coordinated by Dr Gwenaëlle Douaud in a UK center specialized in magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) of the brain. By using the latest MRI technology, the team was able to identify environmental and genetic factors that may trigger later in life schizophrenia.
The study was published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) scientific journal.
The authors of the study found out that the neural network located within the grey matter region of the brain is responsible for information coordination acquired through the five senses, and it has something to do with long-term memory and brain’s capacity of processing new information. Over the years, memory and the above mentioned brain capacity become dysfunctional in patients affected by Alzheimer’s disease or schizophrenia, thus leading to the conclusion that this network’s destruction is may be an Alzheimer’s and schizophrenia cause.
In 1880, a new theory about brain degeneration emerged. According to this theory, called retrogenesis, mental abilities degenerate in the opposite order they have been acquired during childhood especially in Alzheimer’s disease.
The new study confirms this old theory using MRI modern day technique. Researchers have analyzed the brain scans of 484 people with ages between 8 and 85 years old. The MRIs scans showed a common pattern in these patients’ brain evolution that supported the retrogenesis theory
Screening images revealed that the neural network residing within the grey matter region of the brain connects the superior parts of the brain. Scientists have also found out that this network is the last to develop in a child’s brain and the first to degenerate in a aging person’s cerebellum.
“Our results show that the same specific parts of the brain not only develop more slowly, but also degenerate faster than other parts. These complex regions, which combine information coming from various senses, seem to be more vulnerable than the rest of the brain to both schizophrenia and Alzheimer’s, even though these two diseases have different origins and appear at very different, almost opposite, times of life,”
Dr Douaud, one of the research team’s members, said.
Although the theory that grey matter degenerates in time is not recent, the British research team say they managed to pinpoint for the first time one specific neural network inside grey matter that is the main cause of brain malfunctioning in schizophrenia and Alzheimer’s disorders.