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Schizophrenia: What Causes the Cognitive Decline?

schizophrenia and cognitive decline

Schizophrenia: What Causes the Cognitive Decline?


Schizophrenia typically causes hallucinations. But beyond that, cognitive decline, which often occurs in aging individuals, is also a common symptom. Now, researchers have discovered that the biological pathway that causes cognitive decline in both schizophrenia patients and aging adults may be the same.

Presently, there's no way to treat cognitive decline. People with schizophrenia usually only get treatment for the hallucinations. However, the researchers who looked into the pathway causing cognitive decline are hopeful that deeper insights into this mechanism can help develop medications targeting it.

Neurons, Astrocytes, and Synapses

It is well-known that neurons and synapses (the point where neurons connect and information is relayed from one neuron to the next) are factors affecting schizophrenia risk. While neurons facilitate the expression of genes, this gene expression supports the proper functioning of synapses. And synapses are believed to keep the brain flexible and healthy.

Hence, if gene expression declines, it may impair the synapses, thus causing issues in brain health.

Apart from neurons, there's another brain cell type known as astrocytes, which is also involved in gene expression. So, the researchers looked into these two cell types.

In patients with schizophrenia and aging adults, the researchers found that neurons and astrocytes reduced their expression of genes compared to younger people without schizophrenia.

They also found that when neurons decrease their expression of genes related to synapses, the astrocytes reduce their own gene expression that supports synapses. In simple terms, a problem in one brain cell type causes a problem in the other. And this affects brain health.

More on the research here.

What researchers may now focus on is to find out what causes the neurons to act this way, and therefore develop treatment methods to counter it. If that's possible, then cognitive decline in aging adults and schizophrenia patients may become treatable.


For now, best you can do is to treat the psychosis and other symptoms of schizophrenia.

We can help. Reach out to our licensed mental health providers today.


Satu H. Woodland, PMHCNS-BC, APRN Satu H. Woodland, PMHCNS-BC, APRN Satu Woodland is owner and clinician of Hope Mental Health, an integrative mental health practice located at Bown Crossing in Boise, Idaho. She sees children, adolescents, and adults.  Ms. Woodland with her background in nursing, prefers a holistic and integrative approach to mental health care that addresses the mind and body together. While Ms. Woodland provides medication management services in all her patients, she believes in long-lasting solutions that include a number of psychotherapies, namely cognitive behavioral therapy, exposure and response prevention therapy, attention to lifestyle, evidenced based alternative psychiatric care and spirituality. If you’d like to gain control over your mental health issues, call Hope Mental Health at 208-918-0958, or use the online scheduling tool to set up an initial consultation.

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