Schizophrenia is among the most damaging and least understood of all mental disorders. Now a seemingly minor symptom — the fact that many schizophrenia patients complain of sleeping problems — could actually provide a crucial key to unraveling the disease.
At first glance, trouble sleeping might not seem like that big a deal, the sort of thing that is easily explained away by the difficulties of coping with this disease, or perhaps the result of various medications. And yet Oxford researcher Russell Wilson and his team recently published results that show these sleep problems exist regardless of any of these external lifestyle factors — suggesting a potentially much deeper link between schizophrenia and the brain’s sleep centers.
As New Scientist reports, the researchers tested this idea by studying mice with defects in their SNAP25 gene, which is linked to schizophrenia in humans. They placed the mice in an environment where twelve hours of light was followed by twelve hours of darkness. While the mice with normally functioning SNAP25 genes were active during the artificial daytime, the altered mice were the exact opposite. Something was deeply wrong with their circadian rhythms.