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We have often observed dementia symptoms or severe neurocognitive decline in the long-term course of schizophrenia. While there are epidemiological reports that patients with schizophrenia are at an increased risk of developing dementia, there are also neuropathological reports that the prevalence of Alzheimer’s disease (AD) in schizophrenia is similar to that in normal controls. It is difficult to distinguish, based solely on the clinical symptoms, whether the remarkable dementia symptoms and cognitive decline seen in elderly schizophrenia are due to the course of the disease itself or a concomitant neurocognitive disease. Neuropathological observation is needed for discrimination.
We conducted a neuropathological search on three cases of schizophrenia that developed cognitive decline or dementia symptoms after a long illness course of schizophrenia. The clinical symptoms of total disease course were confirmed retrospectively in the medical record. We have evaluated neuropathological diagnosis based on not only Hematoxylin–Eosin and Klüver–Barrera staining specimens but also immunohistochemical stained specimens including tau, β-amyloid, pTDP-43 and α-synuclein protein throughout clinicopathological conference with multiple neuropathologists and psychiatrists.
The three cases showed no significant pathological findings or preclinical degenerative findings, and poor findings consistent with symptoms of dementia were noted.
Although the biological background of dementia symptoms in elderly schizophrenic patients is still unclear, regarding the brain capacity/cognitive reserve ability, preclinical neurodegeneration changes in combination with certain brain vulnerabilities due to schizophrenia itself are thought to induce dementia syndrome and severe cognitive decline.
Recent studies based on the neuroimaging analysis, genomic analysis and transcriptome analysis of the postmortem brain suggest that the pathogenesis of schizophrenia is related to myelin-oligodendrocyte abnormalities. However, no serious neuropathological investigation of this protein in the schizophrenic brain has yet been performed. In this study, to confirm the change in neuropathological findings due to the pathogenesis of this disease, we observed the expression of myelin-oligodendrocyte directly in the brain tissue of schizophrenia patients.
Myelin oligodendrocyte glycoprotein (MOG) was evaluated in the cortex of the superior temporal gyrus (STG) and the hippocampus in 10 schizophrenic and nine age- and sex-matched normal control postmortem brains.
The expression of MOG was significantly lower in the middle layer of the neocortex of the STG and stratum lucidum of CA3 in the hippocampus in the long-term schizophrenic brains (patients with ≥30 years of illness duration) than in the age-matched controls. Furthermore, the thickness of MOG-positive fibre-like structures was significantly lower in both regions of the long-term schizophrenic brains than in the age-matched controls.
These findings suggest that a long duration of illness has a marked effect on the expression of MOG in these regions, and that myelin-oligodendrocyte abnormalities in these regions may be related to the progressive pathophysiology of schizophrenia.
The precise aetiology of schizophrenia remains unclear. The neurodevelopmental hypothesis of schizophrenia has been proposed based on the accumulation of genomic or neuroimaging studies.
In this study, we examined the catecholaminergic neuronal networks in the frontal cortices of disrupted-in-schizophrenia 1 (DISC1) knockout (KO) mice, which are considered to be a useful model of schizophrenia.
Six DISC1 homozygous KO mice and six age-matched littermates were used. The animals’ brains were cut into 20-μm-thick slices, which were then immunohistochemically stained using an anti-tyrosine hydroxylase (TH) monoclonal antibody.
The TH-immunopositive fibres detected in the orbitofrontal cortices of the DISC1 KO mice were significantly shorter than those seen in the wild-type mice.
These neuropathological findings indicate that the hypofrontal symptoms of schizophrenia are associated with higher mental function deficiencies or cognitive dysfunction such as a loss of working memory.
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