(NaturalNews) As humans age, brain cells lose some of their volume and the brain shrinks slowly, subtly over time. Brain cells and their connections are scaled back especially when they are not used. This process of atrophy usually begins after age 30 and continues each year. According to a new study spearheaded by the University of Oulu and the University of Cambridge in Finland, the average speed of brain atrophy of healthy individuals is 0.5 percent per year.
The team of researchers also discovered a striking difference between healthy participants taking NO mind-altering drugs and schizophrenia patients taking antipsychotic drugs.
Antipsychotic drugs speed up brain cell degeneration
Over a nine-year follow-up period, the researchers found that antipsychotic medications speed up brain atrophy, accelerating the degeneration of brain cells. In fact, antipsychotic medications were associated with a 40 percent increase in brain atrophy per year. (Antipsychotic medications shrank brain cell volume of schizophrenia patients by roughly 0.7 percent each year.)
The study, published in the journal PLOS ONE, didn't comment on whether the loss of brain volume was harmful to the patient's cognitive abilities or whether it further contributed to their schizophrenia and related symptoms. However, the researchers did document where in the brain the accelerated atrophy occurred, making a clear distinction: antipsychotic medications shrink brain volume across the board.
In the study, 71 participants taking no mind-altering drugs were used as control subjects against 33 schizophrenia patients on antipsychotic medications, primarily chlorpromazine hydrochloride -- a dopamine antagonist drug with anti-adrenergic, anti-serotonergic, anti-cholinergic and anti-histaminergic properties.
Participants for the study were chosen from the Northern Finland Birth Cohort of 1966. In the nine-year follow-up study, the age range examined was between 34 and 43 years. The researchers used brain scans and regression models to examine whether brain volume changes predicted clinical and cognitive changes over time. Four results stood out.
These four results prove that antipsychotic drugs are actually brain-damaging and psychosis-inducing
After adjustments were made for gender, education level, alcohol use and weight gain, antipsychotic medications causeddegeneration of brain cells by 0.69 percent per year compared to degeneration at 0.49 percent in control participants.
Contrary to popular belief, both older and newer antipsychotic medications had the same effect; all drugs in the study were associated with similar declines in brain volume.
The researchers reasoned that the schizophrenia may be causing the brain atrophy in and of itself, but when the dose of the antipsychotic medication was increased, the acceleration of brain atrophy increased.
Brain volume reduction was found especially in the temporal lobe and periventricular area of those taking antipsychotic medications. This area of the brain plays a powerful role in retention of visual memories, storing new memories, processing sensory input, comprehending language, emotion and deriving meaning.
Professor Juha Veijola from the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Oulu said: "We all lose some brain tissue as we get older, but people with schizophrenia lose it at a faster rate. We've shown that this loss seems to be linked to the antipsychotic medication people are taking. Research like this where patients are studied for many years can help to develop guidelines about when clinicians can reduce the dosage of antipsychotic medication in the long term treatment of people with schizophrenia."
This brings up the obvious question: Are antipsychotic medications helping schizophrenia patients or destroying their brain even faster?
It's apparent that these antipsychotic medications are manipulating the function of patients' brains, forcing them to use less of their brain in certain areas. This appears to be counterproductive, inducing further psychosis.
Shouldn't therapy for mental disorders encourage constructive brain use and neurogeneration, not destruction of brain cells and brain volume?