26 October 2009

Problems with White Matter Central to Schizophrenia and Normal Low IQ

A recent study from King's College London in British Journal of Psychiatry, helps clarify the "timing" problem of mental function in schizophrenics.
The white matter of the brain consists of nerve fibres that connect parts of the brain and help regulate behaviour. The normal brain develops in a back to front fashion, i.e. posterior regions mature first and the frontal lobes last. The research discovered that if there are very severe deficits in the white matter in these posterior (specifically parietal) regions, then schizophrenia develops early in adolescence. As people grow older their deficits "migrate" in a back to front manner and in adulthood, they impact the frontal lobes of the brain quite dramatically.

...The team used Diffusion Tensor Imaging, a state-of-the-art neuro-imaging technique, to examine white matter connections in adolescents and adults with schizophrenia. Abnormalities in white matter appeared first in posterior parts of the brain in the younger patients and became more prominent in the frontal lobes in adult patients. In interpreting the results, Dr. Kyriakopoulos, the lead author, explained that the scans capture the interaction between brain development and disease mechanisms. _SD
Recent research published in the Archives of General Psychiatry appears to connect a NOS1 variant gene to both lower IQ and schizophrenia. In addition, diffusion tensor imaging studies are proving capable of detecting both schizophrenia and lower intelligence in humans.

It is easy to understand how defects in normal development could lead to persons with mental illnesses and / or lower intelligence than normal. What is not so easy to imagine is that what we think of as normal intelligence may actually be the result of defects in more optimal developmental pathways.

Only an acceleration of research into the biological underpinnings of intelligence can answer these questions. Inside the US and Canada, studies that look at the variability of intelligence among populations has to take place under the guise of specific disease research. Such need for pretense (to hide from the PC Thought Police) slows progress significantly. Perhaps researchers in Europe, Oceania, South Asia and East Asia may not be so hamstrung by reactionary cabals of academics, politicians, and media players as in North America.

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