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See Inside October/November 2006

Schizophrenia: One Step Closer

By stimulating dead brain tissue, neuroscientists have concluded that a specific receptor found in the outer layer of neurons functions differently in schizophrenic brains. Schizophrenia, a disorder affecting about 1 percent of Americans, stems partly from genetic factors. Current treatments alleviate only a small fraction of the symptoms, which may include hallucinations, paranoia and disorganized behavior.

The N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) receptor is one of several which bind to glutamate, a key neurotransmitter. In schizophrenic brains, scientists believe the function of NMDA receptors, which normally play a critical role in many neural processes, may be disrupted. How this dysfunction in binding contributes to schizophrenia is unclear, but this latest examination provides the first direct evidence of a correlation to diminished NMDA-receptor function.

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