Elizabeth Thomas, a neuroscientist of The Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla, Calif., said the findings
suggest drugs already in development for other diseases might eventually offer hope as a treatment for schizophrenia and related conditions in the elderly.
"We're excited by the findings," Thomas said in a statement. "There's a tie to other drug development work, which could mean a faster track to clinical trials to exploit what we've found."
Thomas, lead author Bin Tang, a postdoctoral fellow, and Brian Dean, an Australian colleague at the University of Melbourne, obtained post-mortem brain samples from schizophrenic and healthy brains from the United States and Australia.
The brains come either from patients who agreed to donate some or all of their bodies for scientific research after death, or from patients whose families agreed to such donations.
The study, published online in the journal Translational Psychiatry, showed the deficit is especially pronounced in younger people -- meaning treatment might be most effective early on at minimizing or even reversing symptoms of schizophrenia, a mental disorder associated with hallucinations, delusions and emotional difficulties.