A new study has revealed that excess protein during brain development may trigger schizophrenia later in life. According to new Rutgers research, a gene associated with schizophrenia plays a role in brain development and may help to explain the biological process of the disease.
The researchers said that too much protein expressed by the NOS1AP gene, which has been associated with schizophrenia , causes abnormalities in brain structure and faulty connections between nerve cells that prevent them from communicating properly. Bonnie Firestein, professor in the Department of Cell Biology and Neuroscience, said that their research indicates that an overabundance of a protein in the NOS1AP gene resulted in the dendrites-tree-like structures that allow cells to talk to each other and are essential to the functioning of the nervous system-being stunted in the developing brains of rats.
It was also found that too much of the NOS1AP protein in brain cells didn't allow them to branch out and kept them deep within the neocortex, the portion of the brain responsible for higher functioning skills, such as spatial reasoning, conscious thought, motor commands, language development and sensory perception.
Firestein said that when the brain develops, it sets up a system of the right type of connectivity to make sure that communication can occur and they saw that the nerve cells didn't move to the correct locations and didn't have dendrites that branch out to make the connections that were needed. The study was published in Biological Psychiatry.