Schizophrenia and prenatal infection
Arader, Havalyn Logan Department of Psychiatry, Columbia University Medical Center, New York, New York.
Brown, Alan S. Department of Psychiatry, Columbia University Medical Center, New York, New York.
- Findings on infection and schizophrenia
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Schizophrenia is a chronic psychotic disorder that is characterized by the presence of hallucinations, delusions, disorganized thinking and behavior, and deficits in information processing. Schizophrenia affects approximately 1% of the population, with a typical onset in adolescence or later. The causes of the disorder are still largely unknown. There is an approximately 50% concordance rate among identical twins—meaning that if one twin has the disorder, there is a 50% chance that the other twin will also have it. This finding suggests that, while genetics plays a substantial role, there is a significant contribution from environmental factors. Schizophrenia is believed to be a neurodevelopmental disorder, in which disruptions in programming by prenatal conditions can have a significant role. The prenatal period is the most significant and sensitive window for brain development in human life; therefore, an interruption in brain maturation during this critical time can have irreversible and lasting effects. Increasing evidence indicates that infection during pregnancy could be one such prenatal condition. The correlation between prenatal infection and the later development of schizophrenia is one of the most compelling pieces of epidemiological evidence regarding the cause of schizophrenia. This connection may assume particular importance in the future prevention of this disorder, given that many infections are themselves preventable.
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