11/30/2012 08:21 am ET

Sleep, Schizophrenia Link Strengthened In Animal Study

Not getting enough sleep could be linked with triggering symptoms among people with schizophrenia, suggests a new animal study published in the journal Neuron.

People with schizophrenia frequently experience sleep problems. To find the exact effect disrupted sleep has on a brain with schizophrenia, researchers from the University of Bristol and the Lilly Centre for Cognitive Neuroscience examined brain wave activity of sleeping rats that were engineered to have schizophrenia.

They found that during non-rapid eye movement sleep (NREM sleep, which precedes REM sleep), waves of brain activity normally ripple between the hippocampus and frontal cortex regions of the brain, which play parts in the formation of memories and in decision-making, respectively.

However, when the rats' NREM sleep was fragmented, they found that this brain wave activity was not synchronized.

This is certainly not the first time sleep and schizophrenia have been linked. In 2010, a study in the journal Nature Reviews Neuroscience showed that circadian rhythm disruptions are often experienced by people with psychiatric conditions.

And LiveScience reported on a British Journal of Psychiatry study showing that people who have schizophrenia are also troubled more by sleep problems than people without the condition, which is marked by symptoms of hallucinations, social withdrawal, and memory and attention problems.

"We've been thinking of sleep disruption as one of the genetic, developmental and environmental contributors to the development of these appalling conditions," the researcher of that study, Russell Foster, of the University of Oxford, told LiveScience.



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