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Awareness to the Causes of Schizophrenia Jillian Hutzel Touro College

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Awareness to the Causes of Schizophrenia

Jillian Hutzel

Touro College

There are a number of theories that contribute to the cause of Schizophrenia. Although there is no common determination on what could be the actual reason schizophrenia develops, research on this disease tends to focus on three main ideas-

Prenatal exposure



Prenatal Exposure

Prenatal Exposure to Lead, Substance Use, and Infection are the most common ideas causing Schizophrenia.

Lead- A previously conducted study of prenatal lead exposure and schizophrenia using aminolevulinic acid, a biological marker of Pb exposure, in archive material serum samples collected from subjects enrolled in the Childhood Health and Developmental Study (1959-1966) based in Oakland, California, suggested a possible association between prenatal Pb exposure and the development of schizophrenia in later life (Opler et al., 2008). Substance Use-

In the Vulnerability Model of schizophrenia (see Wyann, 1978), prenatal exposure to alcohol might be considered a non-genetic risk factor for the development of schizophreniahowevera small fraction of the schizophrenic syndrome is likely related to prenatal exposure to alcohol (Lohr & Bracha, 1989). Drug use- For example painkillers (just one of the many examples) have also been studied with a number of positive correlations made.

According to Psychiatric Annals (2005), Fetal exposure to painkillers during the later stages of gestation may mean an increased risk of schizophrenia in adulthoodprenatal exposure to analgesics during the second trimester was associated with a nearly fivefold risk of schizophreniaInfection and Nutrition Deprivation-

Infection is a notable environmental risk factor in the development of schizophrenia. One prevalent hypothesis suggests that infection-induced disruption of early prenatal brain development predisposes the organism to long-lasting structural and functional brain abnormalities (Meyer & Feldon, 2009).

Several studies report that exposure to infection and nutrition deprivation during early development may elevate the risk of later developing schizophrenia, specifically during the prenatal period (Opler & Susser, 2005).

Genetics have also been a concern regarding this disease but researchers can only ponder around the idea because there is no certainty.

GeneticsSchizophrenia is not inherited-only a potentiality for itit is not easy to prevent marriages of people who are carriers of definite or recessive heredity diseases, it is much more difficult to do so in the case of schizophrenia when the available literature seems to guarantee a 90 percent protection. In other words, if a person is or has been a schizophrenic, he has a 10 percent chance of being a carrier of schizophrenia. If an individual had a parent who was schizophrenic, he also has a 10 percent chance of becoming schizophrenic (Arieti, 1974). In an analysis of 40 family studies, Gottesman found that the grand average risk of being diagnosed with schizophrenia among relatives of cases was 2% for third-degree relatives, 4% to 6% for second-degree relatives, 9% to 13% for children and siblings, and approximately 46% for monozygotic twins (Gottesman & Shields, 1982). Overall, No single genes or group of genes is likely to be found in all people with schizophrenia. Probably, like most disorders with complex inheritance patterns, it arises from many genes acting together, each with small affects, and from different combination of genes in different families (On the trail of schizophrenia, 2005).


Arieti (1974) States,Early psychogenetic environment is essential for the occurrence of schizophrenia, for transforming whatever genetic potentiality exists into an actuality.

(In other words, if the fetus is already inheritably exposed to the gene of schizophrenia and the mother is contributing to a stressful, unpleasant and/or harmful environment, the fetus could be directly affected. Even though there was already a developing trait for that child, the environment in which it is living could help boost that trait into full transition). Van Os, Kennis, & Rutten (2010) sums this section up by saying, exposures to environmental variation during developmental sensitive periods are essential for the normal development of neural connectivity underlying functional abilities of the human brain. Early neglect and life course environmental insults that disinhibit stress signaling pathways can lead to impaired neuronal responsiveness and symptoms of profound prefrontal cortical dysfunction, providing a direct link between the environment and the cognitive impairments observed in psychotic syndrome. Researchers have also looked at the individual in the physical world and seen corresponding evidence that environment could be a leading cause in schizophrenia.

Psychotic syndromes can be understood as disorders of adaption to social context. Although heritability is often emphasized, onset is associated with environmental factors such as early life adversity, growing up in an urban environment, minority group position and cannabis use, suggesting that exposure may have an impact on the developing social brain during sensitive periods (Van Os, Kennis, & Rutten, 2010). As a side note-

Cannabis use may contribute to psychotic symptoms but researchers wonder if self-medication (psychosis proneness may induce cannabis use) and causation (cannabis induces psychosis proneness) (Van Os, Kennis, & Rutten, 2010) really do apply.

PreventionAccording to Caplan and Grunebaum (1967) the aims [of prevention] are to modify the environment and to strengthen individual capacities to cope with situations in order, they say, to reduce the incidence of new cases of mental disorder and disability in a population (Bellak, 1979).

ConclusionAlthough there is not a known reason to the cause of schizophrenia, three main concepts recycle around researchers. These concepts include genetics, prenatal exposure and the environment. Genetics are known to be what is inherited whether it is directly from the mother or passed down through generations. Prenatal exposure is what is affecting the fetus while in the womb. For example, it is possible that infection and/or deprivation in nutrition can directly impact the fetuss brain development. The third main concept is environment, which is all factors surrounding an individual whether it be in or outside the womb. Schizophrenia is a serious incapacitating disease that directly affects neurological functions. It is unknown what the main reason behind the development of this illness is, but with a better education on the possible causes people can begin to take measures in prevention. Schizophrenia strikes about 1% of all Americans. It is the most disabling and the most frightening of all the mental illnesses. No other disorder strikes so devastatingly at the core of a persons personality (Lundy, 1990)