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Late-onset schizophrenia found to be distinct condition

A condition previously considered late-onset schizophrenia has been found, in fact, to be a distinct condition that disables the communication superhighway, researchers said.

Paraphrenia is a condition, affecting primarily women, in which the cellular skeleton of brain cells involved in social perspective and emotion is weakened. This happens when a key structural protein called tau falls out of solution, said Dr. Manuel F. Casanova, neurologist and neuropathologist at the Medical College of Georgia and lead author on the research published in the March issue of the journal Acta Neuropathologica. Dr. Casanova also will present the research at the April 13-20 annual meeting of the American Academy of Neurology.

Prior to the findings, little was known about the pathology of paraphrenia or schizophrenia, Dr. Casanova said. And, despite some common symptoms, scientists and clinicians alike have speculated that the two had glaring differences as well, such as the fact that schizophrenia typically gets worse and paraphrenia typically does not. Research seeking clarification of the relationship, Disentangling the Pathology of Schizophrenia and Paraphrenia, recently won Dr. Casanova the Senior Scientist Award from the World Congress on Schizophrenia.

The work examined the brains of 64 schizophrenics and 18 control patients from the Corsellis Collection housed at West London Hospital, comparing schizophrenics diagnosed before age 40 to those diagnosed after age 40 as well as the control patients. The average age of onset for schizophrenia is 16 to 25; late-onset, or paraphrenia, has been described as diagnosis after age 40, Dr. Casanova said.

Microscopic analysis of tissue revealed no distinctive pathology among the schizophrenics, but among the paraphrenics Dr. Casanova and his collaborators found a surprising deterioration of the skeletal structure of some brain cells. The key is the hippocampus, a sort of gateway for the brain that gives
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Contact: Toni Baker
tbaker@mail.mcg.edu
706-721-4421
Medical College of Georgia
27-Mar-2002


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