In a recent study, researchers found that the signals in people’s brains differ depending on a particular aspect of an individual’s personality, termed Schizotypy.
The findings suggest that many mental illnesses may be thought of as extreme variants of a normal personality.
This discovery could improve the way schizophrenia is characterized and treated.
The study was led by the University of Nottingham.
Similarly to how some people are more or less outgoing, a healthy individual with a highly schizotypal personality shares more ‘thinking patterns’ with a person diagnosed with schizophrenia.
This bridge between normal personality and mental illness provided a way for the researchers to understand if the brains of patients with schizophrenia are totally distinct from healthy volunteers, or whether they overlap.
In the study, the researchers used a technique called Magnetoencephalography (MEG) to measure volunteer’s brain waves while they moved their index finger.
MEG is an incredibly powerful technique to look at how the brain functions.
The team had used the same technique and had found the brain response to this finger movement was reduced in patients with schizophrenia.
In this study, they found that the more severe the patient’s symptoms, the more the response was reduced. In this latest work, a similar relationship was found but in healthy volunteers.
Volunteers with a personality more similar to that of a person with schizophrenia, or highly schizotypal, had a reduced brain response as compared to those with less schizophrenia-like personalities.
Although more research is required, the researchers hope that in the future this or a similar technique will be used to help in the diagnosis and planning of treatment for people with mental health problems.
They suggest that this finding should help to dispel the idea that people with serious mental problems are categorically different from so-called “normal” people.
Even more importantly, it shows that the same kinds of strategies that help any of us deal with the challenges we face in everyday life could also be helpful in dealing with the more demanding challenges faced by people with serious illness.
Nonetheless, it would be a mistake to under-estimate those challenges.
The team also suggests that although this work is extremely exciting for the study of psychosis, it builds on other exciting work demonstrating that MEG can be useful for mental health diagnoses.
They hope that by showing there to be a continuous brain link between healthy people and people with schizophrenia, this work will help to remove the stigma associated with mental illness.
Peter Liddle, professor of psychiatry at the University’s Institute of Mental Health, is the study’s senior author. Dr. Benjamin Hunt is the lead author of this research.
The study is published in Schizophrenia Bulletin.
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Source: Schizophrenia Bulletin.