Researchers Find Further Evidence That Schizophrenia is Connected to Our Guts

By Roni Dengler | February 7, 2019 10:48 am
schizophrenia

(Credit: frankie’s/Shutterstock)

More than 21 million people worldwide suffer from schizophrenia, a profound mental illness that interrupts thinking, language and perception. Quite a few schizophrenic people experience delusions and hear voices. Many of the disease’s symptoms stem from faulty communication between brain cells. And, for decades, scientists have searched for a cure in the brain.

Now researchers say they’ve discovered that the way to heal schizophrenia might be through the gut. There’s an ecosystem of bacteria and microbes that live in our digestive tracts, known as the gut microbiome. And these may lead to some features of schizophrenia, an international team of scientists announced this week in the journal Science Advances. The discovery could revolutionize treatment options for schizophrenia.

“We understand schizophrenia as a brain disease,” Ma-Ling Wong, a medical geneticist at the State University of New York Upstate Medical University in Syracuse, who co-led the new research, said in a press briefing. “But maybe we need to re-examine this line of thinking and consider that maybe the gut has an important role.”

Gut-Brain Connection

The idea that the gut is connected to mental health has been gaining traction in recent years. And research is now pointing to a link between the gut microbiome and an array of mental health disorders including anxiety, memory and motor deficits in Parkinson’s disease. A separate study, published Monday in the journal Nature Microbiology connected missing gut microbes to depression. Those mounting associations extend to schizophrenia as well, where the mental illness often co-occurs with gastrointestinal disorders marked by atypical gut bugs.

To explore the connection, Wong and colleagues sequenced the genetic material in stool samples from patients with schizophrenia, as well as healthy individuals recruited from the First Affiliated Hospital of Chongqing Medical University in China.

They found that patients with schizophrenia had less diverse gut microbiomes than patients without schizophrenia, the researchers report. The microbiomes from schizophrenic patients also harbored unique kinds of bacteria. They were so distinct, in fact, that the researchers were able to tell patients with schizophrenia apart from healthy controls based just on the bacteria in their guts.

All-New Approach

The most intriguing evidence came when the researchers gave germ-free mice fecal transplants from the schizophrenic patients. They found that “the mice behaved in a way that is reminiscent of the behavior of people with schizophrenia,” said Julio Licinio, who co-led the new work with Wong, his research partner and spouse. Mice given fecal transplants from healthy controls behaved normally. “The brains of the animals given microbes from patients with schizophrenia also showed changes in glutamate, a neurotransmitter that is thought to be dysregulated in schizophrenia,” he added.

The discovery shows how altering the gut can influence an animals behavior, and it also provides a new target for drug treatment.

“This would give us a completely new pathway toward treating schizophrenia,” Licinio said. “No treatments that we give today are based on a change of the microbes in the gut. So if you could show that would change behavior in a positive way, we would have a whole new way to approach schizophrenia.”

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  • TLongmire

    The brain is dependent on the stomach(and body as whole) to generate a field that entangles your consciousness not creates it. Perhaps the microbiome is made up of countless small creatures each conscious in there own way and when triggered by environmental factors proliferate seeking dominance. Cordyceps prove a mechanism.

    • Erik Bosma

      Serotonin is manufactured in the gut.

    • https://127.0.0.1 IC Rainbow

      This explanation is way more complex than necessary. Alongside a rather plain description with production of body chemicals the nebular words like “field”, “entanglement” and “conscious” add nothing to improve our predictions considering patient states.

  • Anna

    Sta­rt getting extra cash weekly… This is a valuable part-time work for anybody… Best part about it is that you can do this job from your couch at home and make $100-$2k every week … Apply now and get your first check by the end of this week…> LALMOST.TUMBLR.COM

  • Kenny

    Note to self: Do not get a fecal implant from a schizophrenic patient.

  • StanChaz

    No doubt this explains Trump’s irrational behavior & tantrums, as triggered by his fast food diet.
    I can just see his poor gut microbes,
    jumping and shouting in despair:
    no more, no more! no more fast food!
    build a wall please, build a wall now
    – and protect us from any more of that fast food!
    What it doesn’t explain however
    is his traitorous & corrupt behavior.

    • April Ritter

      *sigh* There’s always the nut job that has to turn EVERYTHING into a Trump bash.

      • StanChaz

        Awwwh. Did I hit a right-wing nerve?
        Sad to say that’s where the true nut reside in today’s politics *sigh*

        • April Ritter

          No. Just tired of shallow thinkers believing everything revolves around their butt-hurt feelings over Trump. For Gods sake, get over it already. If you can’t comment on topic then perhaps come out of your mom’s basement and tell HER about it. She’s most likely the only one who cares.

    • Bob Kaczynski

      Really? U connect and Slander president Trump?
      Take your meds &stfd,TDS is the diagnosis for u. Terminal

      • StanChaz

        OH a Trump supporter!
        I didn’t know there were any left outside of Russia.

        • Bob Kaczynski

          Seems lot of Braidead sheep like u are left.
          Get out from ur basement ,see the world so u UNDERSTAND IT.TDS idiota.
          Now STFD like I instruct you.
          Trump 2020

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