Schizophrenia is noted for disturbances in thinking, emotional reaction and behavior and is the most common form of psychotic illness. More than 2 million Americans suffer from it, according to the National Institute of Mental Health. People with schizophrenia often hear internal voices not heard by others, or believe others are reading their minds, controlling their thoughts or plotting to harm them. In addition, their speech and behavior can be so disorganized that they may be incomprehensible or frightening to others.
In the UF studies, researchers injected rats with the protein beta-casomorphin-7, one of the key constituents of milk and the part that coagulates to make cheese. They then observed their behavior and later examined brain tissue to see whether the substances accumulated there.
Beta-casomorphin-7 was taken up by 32 different areas of the brain, Cade said, including sections responsible for vision, hearing and communication.
"This could explain several of the things one sees in autism and schizophrenia, such as hallucinations," he said. "If part of the brain] puts out a false signal because of casomorphin, it could result in the person seeing something that's not really there; either a visual or auditory hallucination could occur.
"There are a whole number of behaviors that the rat has after
beta-casomorphin-7 that are basically the same as one sees in the human
with autism or schizophrenia," he added. "If we ring a bell beside a rat's
cage, it normally looks up to see where the noise is coming from. But the
rats after beta-casomorphin-7 didn't do that -- they were completely
oblivious to the bell-ringing above them. This struck us as interesting
Contact: Paul Ramey
University of Florida