BALTIMORE, May 31 (UPI) -- U.S. researchers say they linked exposure to the cold sore virus to shrinking of brain regions in patients with schizophrenia.
Scientists at The John Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore say they cannot explain why schizophrenia may make the brain more vulnerable to viral assault. However, they associate the virus-linked-lessening of volumes in the areas of the anterior cingulate and cerebellum to losses in concentration, memory and dexterity often found in patients with schizophrenia.
The study, published in Schizophrenia Research, may point to new treatments for schizophrenia.
"We're finding that some portion of cognitive impairment usually blamed solely on the disease of schizophrenia might actually be a combination of schizophrenia and prior exposure to herpes simplex virus 1 infection, which reproduces in the brain," study leader David Schretlen says in statement.
"If we can identify schizophrenic patients with herpes simplex virus 1 antibodies early on, it might be possible to reduce the risk or the extent of cognitive deficits."
Schretlen and colleagues used brain scans to measure brain area volumes in 40 patients with schizophrenia. Testing to measure coordination speed, organizational skills and verbal memory was done as well. Blood tests indicated 25 had antibodies for herpes simplex 1 and 15 did not.