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Biology 202
2000 First Web Report
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Schizophrenia: Effects on the Brain

Matt Fisher

Schizophrenia is a disease that affects the brain. It alters brain chemistry and brain form to produce the different behavior in those afflicted with the problem. It appears that these alterations change the inherent I-function in each individual. Loss of important functions associated with this piece of the greater nervous system box is found in these people. To understand why this occurs, it is necessary to have some background knowledge of what schizophrenia does to a person's brain. The conclusion of altered I-function can be drawn as this information is presented. The symptoms of the disease also aid in the explanation. Schizophrenia results in varied and abnormal responses compared to those of normal, healthy individuals. The brain of individuals with the disease endures such changes that their basic functions and operations are altered.

Schizophrenia is an internal disease caused by fundamental organizational differences in the brain. It begins to be noticed in a person's late teens through twenties. Signs of it can be seen from early childhood and it is now being hypothesized that it is actually present during adolescence (1). Since this hypothesis extends to fetal development, brain formation in the earliest stages is effected. The alteration of pathways and deviation of neurotransmitters from normal arrangement is believed to be a factor behind the affliction. The brain of these individuals forms differently. Neurotransmitters are believed to misfire altering the chemical balance of the brain causing behavioral problems. There are deficits in cortical and subcortical cognitive processes (5). There are also enlarged ventricles in the brain causing further impairment of ability (3). When the disease is present there are certain symptoms that are easily recognizable. They fall into three categories overt, negative, and positive. The overt symptoms are delusions, hallucinations, alteration of the senses, inability to sort and then respond appropriately to incoming sensations, an altered sense of self, and changes in behavior (2). The negative symptoms are emotional flatness, inability to start or follow through on activities, brief speech lacking content, and lack of pleasure or interest in life (2). All of these include an inhibition on processing information and further imply a differentiation in the normal self. The basic information above provides a solid background to understanding the disease and already possible problems to a person's I-function can be seen.

The afflicted person's lack of knowledge concerning the disease suggests a hindrance to the I-function. People are not aware of any problem and thus resist taking medication for it (3). There is damage to the I-function of some kind or damage to the proprioceptors. Certain signals are not being transmitted to the brain preventing logical responses. It would be more likely that there is damage to the I-function because there is a definite awareness issue involved. People are not consciously aware because all parts of the body are still operating. Going back to the notion that schizophrenia develops in the fetal stage of development this has serious implications for neuron organization. Alteration has been proven because studies found there is less gray matter in the temporal and frontal lobes of sufferers (3). Gray matter is important contains the somas and dendrites of the neurons. Reducing its presence will result in less possible action by the nervous system. A fundamental piece of the I-function is then missing. Also connected to this is the emotional flatness symptom. If some of the I-function is missing then that person inherently was prevented from fully maturing and developing their emotions. The I-function determines a person's conscious reactions to some extent. Schizophrenia takes this away from a person and leaves nothing or damaged material in its place. The disease impairs the I-function and this explains why a person is not themselves aware of their problem.

Schizophrenia furthers impairs behavior because it prevents the brain from developing particular schemata. Schemata are patterns within the brain that represent and control different functions. They are basically the same as central pattern generation. Social and cognitive areas particularly suffer loss (5). Thus they often respond inappropriately to social situations. In relation to this, people with schizophrenia experience delayed reaction time under certain circumstances. Preparatory intervals of greater than four seconds and an increase in the number of stimuli cause difficulty (5). The I-function while not directly controlling all of these processes is involved in regulating and then monitoring the response. The sufferer can not interpret the data quickly enough and this demonstrates a lacking in their brainpower. More experiments illustrate this point further. Schizophrenics perform poorly in verbal and visual memory tests (5). This refers to earlier information stating the brain in those afflicted contains a reduced hippocampus, the memory maintenance center. The I-function must be active in this area because memories are part of who a person is. Memories also assist in forming patterns of behavior and as stated above these are missing in schizophrenics. Thus the data stating that prior habits or attitudes do not influence the people is true (5). Instead of the I-function receiving information and interpreting it individually in relation to previous experiences, possibly it treats each stimulus as a completely new entity and generates a new output under each circumstance.

Schizophrenia greatly effects the brain and the I-function. A person with the disease develops differently than a normal person. There is a definite deficit present because a schizophrenic is not as aware of the surrounding world. Correspondingly, they can not process inputs to the same degree. Their outputs consequently are not the responses expected. The disease damages the I-function to such an extent that it is completely altered and operates to a much lesser extent than in a healthy person. Schizophrenics still have the I-function it just does not grow enough and they are socially and cognitively stunted as a result.

WWW Sources

1)The Schizophrenia Home Page, disease home page

2)Facts on Schizophrenia, provides list of information

3)Schizophrenia and Manic-Depressive Disorders are Diseases of the Brain, article about disease

4) Schizophrenia , general information

5) Context and Cognition in Schizophrenia, article about observable consequences

6) Schizophrenia, main page about disease

7)Schizophrenia: Questions and Answers , general information about disease

8) Schizophrenia , NIMH page about schizophrenia

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