Medications for Schizophrenia Affect Several Pathways in the Brain

New research reveals that areas of the brain that regulate communication may also be impacted by the medications commonly used for schizophrenia.

It’s been known for some time that most medications used to treat schizophrenia increase the volume of a brain signal that is muted in individuals with the disorder, but new research from the American Chemical Society reveals that these medications may also affect other areas of the brain that are involved in regulating communication between brain cells, particularly one that the researchers have named the Akt signaling pathway.

The researchers used a genetically modified form of the C. elegans worm that was wired to glow green to show activity of Akt, a signal that is not expressed enough in the brains of people with schizophrenia. Every one of the 13 drugs that the researchers tested helped the worms maintain a green glow.

The researchers also report that “insulin/IGF-1 receptor signaling is required for the activation of Akt,” which could mean that receptor “cross-talk” has a previously unidentified role in the way that antipsychotic medications work. Other labs have found that certain dietary measures may increase the amount of Akt signaling that occurs, which may be related to the ACS results about receptor “cross-talk.”

Writing in ACS Chemical Neuroscience, the researchers stated that “this is the first example of a common but specific molecular effect produced by all presently known antipsychotic drugs in any biological system. Because untreated schizophrenics have been reported to have low levels of Akt signaling, increased Akt signaling might contribute to the therapeutic actions of antipsychotic drugs.”