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Study Finds Antipsychotic Use Is Associated With Decreased Brain Volume

Brian Finehout-Henry2 years ago

On July 18th, 2014, the journal PLOS ONE published a study online linking antipsychotic use in schizophrenics to lower brain volume. In the article, “Longitudinal Changes in Total Brain Volume in Schizophrenia: Relation to Symptom Severity, Cognition, and Antipsychotic Medication” the authors studied 33 people diagnosed with schizophrenia and 71 people used as controls with no history of schizophrenia or antipsychotics medication use. The participants in the study were given an MRI and other tests to determine health and mental abilities and then almost a decade later, the study investigators preformed the same tests. According to US News and World Reports, the people with schizophrenia using antipsychotic medication had significantly lower brain volume compared to the control group and that more brain volume loss was found in the people taking higher doses of antipsychotic medication.

Antipsychotics Were Associated with Weight Gain and Loss in Specific Brain Areas

The PLOS ONE study also found that the people on antipsychotics gained significantly more weight over the study period, a little over 20 pounds in those using antipsychotics to 4.4 pounds in the control group. The study showed that brain loss was found in the parietal lobe, temporal lobe, and periventricular area of the brain. According to the National Institutes of Health, the parietal lobe is responsible for processing sensory information from the body and forming thoughts, while the temporal lobe plays a role in forming memories, emotions, hearing, language, and learning. The study did not find any decreased mental function or worsening of symptoms with the brain loss.

Atypical Antipsychotics More Strongly Linked to Brain Loss

            The study found that atypical antipsychotics had a more significant link to brain volume loss than typical antipsychotics. It had been reported in previous studies that, there is a link between typical antipsychotic use and brain volume loss, but this study found a link between atypical antipsychotic use and loss of brain volume. Loss of brain volume is associated with loss of brain cells and loss of connections between brain cells.

Abilify and Seroquel Are Both Atypical Antipsychotics

            While the study did not mention the specific atypical antipsychotics used by the participants in the study, Abilify and Seroquel are both common, popular atypical antipsychotic medications. The authors of the study warn that, there is increasing use of antipsychotic medications for off label uses, specifically for bipolar disorder, unipolar depression, and child psychiatric conditions, without any studies published about the long-term effects of antipsychotics and loss of brain volume in these conditions.


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