September 16, 2008

Interesting Interview with Brain Scientist Nancy Andreasen

There is a fascinating interview with Nancy Andreasen, a leading brain researcher, in today's New York Times. In the interview she discusses her research she's been doing for the past 18 years and which is not yet published. Much of her research is related to schizophrenia, but because schizophrenia is thought to have a lot of genetic overlap with bipolar disorder - her research may also be relevant to bipolar disorder.

In it she notes "The big finding is that people with schizophrenia are losing brain tissue at a more rapid rate than healthy people of comparable age. Some are losing as much as 1 percent per year. That’s an awful lot over an 18-year period."

In response to this interview - researchers have made the following comment:

Re “A Conversation With Nancy C. Andreasen” (Sept. 16): We have to express concern about Dr. Andreasen’s comments on the loss of brain tissue in individuals with schizophrenia.

She implies that such loss is caused by antipsychotic drugs despite the fact that it was clearly described before such drugs became available. The fact that “the more drugs you’ve been given, the more brain tissue you lose” may be explained by the fact that individuals with more severe schizophrenia are given more drugs.

We are particularly concerned that the studies that she cites have not been subject to the process of peer review. Your readers should be cautioned not to accept findings in complex disorders such as schizophrenia until they are subject to scientific scrutiny.

Robert Yolken, M.D.
Baltimore

E. Fuller Torrey, M.D.
Chevy Chase, Md.
Dr. Yolken is a professor of pediatrics at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, and Dr. Torrey is executive director of the Stanley Medical Research Institute in Gaithersburg, Md.

Read the interview: Using Imaging to Look at Changes in the Brain

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