Researchers have found a specific brain network that is the last to develop, but first to show signs of neurodegeneration, which is more vulnerable to disorders that emerge in young people, shedding light on conditions such as schizophrenia and the potential genetic and environmental factors that may occur early in life.
A team led by Dr. Gwenaëlle Douaud at the Oxford University Functional MRI of the Brain (FMRIB) Centre in the UK, looked at grey matter in the brain, an area that is linked to intellectual capacity and long-term memory. For the study, they looked for a certain pattern in brain changes in a specific brain location in MRI scans of 484 people. The researchers found that a particular network within the grey matter links to higher order regions of the brain. Furthermore, after comparing the brain network in healthy individuals to those with schizophrenia, the researchers concluded this region plays an important role in the disease.
“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,” said Dr. Douaud, commenting on the findings.