New research says that the brain’s natural electrical currents could possibly be used as a test for schizophrenia. Currently there is no blood or laboratory test to confirm schizophrenia, meaning a patient must meet specific symptom criteria in order to be diagnosis by a clinician.
Magnetoencephalogram (MEG) technology was used by scientists from the Univesity of Plymouth and Spain. An MEG uses extremely sensitive magnetometers to map brain activity by recording magnetic fields that are produced naturally in the brain by electrical currents. Researchers used this non-invasive MEG to identify two brain features in schizophrenia patients that are significantly different from healthy control subjects.
Researchers also found that schizophrenia affects how brain activity evolves with age. Four features in the brain signals of schizophrenia patients changed over time, but this was not seen in the healthy controls.
“At present, there is no blood, cerebrospinal fluid, brain imaging or neurophysiological test for schizophrenia in routine clinical practice. The diagnosis relies on the interpretation of symptoms and clinical history according to consensus criteria,” said lead author Javier Escudero, Ph.D.
“The advent of an objective marker for schizophrenia would significantly facilitate the diagnosis and offer a better understanding of the neurobiological basis of the disease.”
The study included 15 patients with positive symptoms of schizophrenia and 17 healthy controls of the same age. Researchers found that they were able to identify the schizophrenia patients using spectral features with 71 percent accuracy.
“The long-term vision is to develop a low-cost, non-invasive and objective test to aid the diagnosis of this and other brain diseases. The magnetoencephalogram is able to provide very detailed information about the brain activity; however, it is expensive,” said Escudero. “Therefore, we aim to transfer these developments to electroencephalogram recordings in the future, as this technique meets those requirements of reduced cost, high availability and non-invasiveness.”