Boosting Brain Antioxidants could Improve Psychosis Outcomes

ISLAMABAD, June 30 (APP): A study of people experiencing a first episode of psychosis has shown that higher levels of the antioxidant glutathione are associated with quicker responses to treatment and may improve early intervention outcomes.

The time that it takes for somebody to respond to treatment for psychosis a key indicator of their long-term outcome. Psychosis can be a symptom of a number of psychiatric disorders, including schizophrenia and schizoaffective, bipolar, and major depressive disorders.

In around one-third of people with schizophrenia, the condition is considered resistant to treatment. This is associated with more severe symptoms and more time spent in the hospital. The medical community has yet to fully understand why some people respond to antipsychotic treatments within weeks, while others take months.

A new study that appears in Molecular Psychiatry set out to understand this disparity. In a collaborative effort among a range of Canadian institutions, researchers looked at the levels of a protective antioxidant in the brains of people experiencing a first episode of psychosis.

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In the study, the researchers investigated an antioxidant called glutathione. Scientists believe that glutathione protects neurons against free radicals, which are highly reactive molecules known to damage cells. Glutathione is the most prominent antioxidant found in brain cells.

Some studies have found a lack of glutathione in people experiencing psychosis, specifically in the cingulate cortex. It is a part of the brain associated with emotion regulation, which is highly important in schizophrenia.

The lack of glutathione seems to be most striking in patients who have continuing symptoms, even after receiving treatment, suggesting that the molecule could be associated with response to treatment.

Glutathione is also important in relation to another chemical called glutamate. At high levels, glutamate can be toxic to neurons, and this is known to occur in first-episode psychosis. Excess glutamate has also been associated with reduced responsiveness to the treatment of psychosis.

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