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Nov 19, 2015 06:39 AM EST

Brain wrinkle linked to schizophrenic hallucinations

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A new study suggests that structural brain differences, specifically a brain wrinkle found in the frontal lobes, may be responsible for hallucinations in some cases of schizophrenia, Science World Report reports.

The study suggests that shorter paracingulate sulcus (PCS), a fold near the front of the brain, is linked to a 20 percent increased risk of both auditory and visual hallucination in patients.

The University of Cambridge in collaboration with Durham University, Macquarie University and Trinity College Dublin led the study, University of Cambridge reports.

"Schizophrenia is a complex spectrum of conditions that is associated with many differences throughout the brain, so it can be difficult to make specific links between brain areas and the symptoms that are often observed," said Dr Jon Simons from the Department of Psychology at the University of Cambridge, in a news release.

"By comparing brain structure in a large number of people diagnosed with schizophrenia with and without the experience of hallucinations, we have been able to identify a particular brain region that seems to be associated with a key symptom of the disorder."

The paracingulate fold is one of the last folds in the brain to develop before a baby is born. Researchers believe that the difference in brain wrinkles may help to understand future risk for psychiatric disorder.

For the study, researchers analyzed 153 structural MRI scans of those schizophrenic patients and compared them with control participants, measuring the length of the PCS in each participant's brain. The findings revealed that Findings revealed that schizophrenic patients had a 1 cm reduction in the fold's length. 

Stephen Lawrie, a professor of psychiatry at the University of Edinburgh, told BBC News,

"There's quite a strong literature showing that auditory hallucinations are related to dysfunction or structural disruption in language areas of the brain".

"I think the value of this is that it probably helps us think slightly more broadly about hallucinations in schizophrenia, in terms of it not just being about language areas of the brain - but involving a more distributed network of regions, and implicating, in particular, cognitive control or higher-order cognitive functioning."

The study is published in Nature Communications.

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