Schizophrenia Studies Reveal Differences in Perception
> 3/2/2007 12:45:56 PM

Researchers long defined schizophrenia as a condition causing the mind to "lose its way" and trigger irregular responses to outside stimuli. A revealing new study, however, suggests that patients with schizophrenia actually experience key events differently than those without.

The study used magnetic imaging to record the brain processes of 19 schizophrenic patients and 19 people not affected by teh disorder. One of the study's key findings highlights auditory deficiences in schizophrenic patients, who are often unable to differentiate between musical notes and, more importantly, have difficulty drawing emotional undertones from human speech, which could at least partially explain the social difficulties they so often encounter. The disorder is usually not diagnosed until adolescence, but most patients exhibit behavioral problems much earlier. Interacting with others becomes more challenging when one cannot discern the context or intent of their words and actions.

The fact that schizophrenic individuals are easily distracted has now been attributed to a lack of blood flow and accordingly erratic activity in the brain's frontal cortex, an area which serves to process information and facilitate the decision-making process. As a result, schizophrenic individuals performed poorly on exercises in which they were required to identify preset visual stimuli and press a button when they appeared on the screen. The same irregularities most likely contribute to the visual and auditory hallucinations commonly reported by persons suffering from schizophrenia.

While this research does not present a smoking gun or simple solution, its has very encouraging implications in the treatment of schizophrenia and can hopefully result in more effective therapies and medications. It certainly helps to realize that schizophrenic patients actually experience the world differently and that their unusual responses are not simply a sign of faulty processing. They hear and see things in a different way, and knowing this will allow doctors and therapists approach them with increased understanding and empathy. With luck, these individuals may soon be able to function more successfully in the everyday world.

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