Dr. Lieberman explains the causes of schizophrenia.
Precise cause of schizophrenia is not exactly known, but we are virtually certain it has to do with the disturbance in the brain or particularly the brain’s development that plants certain weaknesses in the brain that can potentially malfunction later in life when a person is going through the adolescent maturational process.
Also, there is very, very good evidence that the causes of these abnormalities or malfunctions in brain development are related to genetic factors. We know schizophrenia runs in families, but it’s different than other things that may run in families, like being rich or poor, or having good table manners or not, or having certain behavioral patterns that you learn in families.
We know from a variety of different studies that it’s genes that are producing this genetic effect and causing it to run in families. So, we think that there are a group of genes, not just one gene, but a group of genes that are contributing to the subtly abnormal development to the brain, which then during adolescence or young adulthood becomes overwhelmed by the demands made on the brain and begins to malfunction, and the malfunction involves specific neural circuits. These are like computer circuits, but they are in the brain and involve one cell, one neuron connecting to another and involve a disregulation in the chemicals that enable this communication between neurons in the brain, and these chemicals that are specifically implicated or specifically disregulated are dopamine and glutamate.
These are two chemicals, and they are overactive in the brain, and the medications we use are geared to try and regulate them to re-stabilize their disregulated activity.
About Dr. Lieberman, M.D.:
Jeffrey A. Lieberman, M.D. currently is the Lawrence E. Kolb Chairman of Psychiatry at the Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons and Director of the New York State Psychiatric Institute. He also holds the Lieber Chair and Directs the Lieber Center for Schizophrenia Research in the Department of Psychiatry at Columbia.