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The mind's inventions
John Nash, a mathematician, winner of the Nobel price in 1994, suffered from schizophrenia. His life was portrayed in a Hollywood movie a few years back, but what is most important is to realize that, just as him, other 24 million people are affected by this mental disease, all over the world.
Some numbers on schizophrenia
According to data provided by the World Health Organization (WHO), from the total number of schizophrenic patients, more than half of them are not receiving the proper treatment that they require and are therefore, suffering the consequences of this terrible disease without any psychiatric and psychological aid.
The disease doesn’t distinguish among sex or race, since it is common in both males and females from different ethnic groups.
The causes of schizophrenia are not well defined. It is known that it has a very strong genetic component, since the risk of developing the disease increases if you have a direct relative that suffers from it, but it has not been linked to a specific form of inheritance.
There are also environmental factors that play an important role in the development of schizophrenia. For instance, scientists believe that certain viral infections, malnutrition during pregnancy and early childhood, as well as other factors, may increase the risk of genetic damage and brain diseases such as schizophrenia.
Disrupted chemical balance inside the brain
What is exactly happening inside the brain of a schizophrenic? Since the causes are still unknown, the mechanisms of damage are also not very well understood either. The disease is certainly a consequence of a disruption in the normal function of brain chemicals, known as neurotransmitters. Glutamate and dopamine brain chemicals are the most affected in the brain of schizophrenic patients.
In a normal brain, there is a balance between the release and retake of these neurotransmitters, in order to transmit the right signals, from one neuron to another, and create the correct response to whatever stimulus was sent to the brain.
There is also evidence that the brain of a person suffering from schizophrenia shows signs of neuronal loss in certain brain regions, as well as alterations in the distribution and morphological characteristics of brain cells, causing the formation of mistaken neuronal connections.
The consequence of these faulty connections between neurons and the imbalance in the production of neurotransmitters is the immersion of the patient into a psychotic state, characterized by hallucinations and delusions, which is very hard to handle by the patient and by everybody that surrounds him or her.