A person diagnosed with schizophrenia may experience hallucinations (most reported are hearing voices), delusions (often bizarre or persecutory in nature), and disorganized thinking and speech. The latter may range from loss of train of thought, to sentences only loosely connected in meaning, to incoherence known as word salad in severe cases. Social withdrawal, sloppiness of dress and hygiene, and loss of motivation and judgment are all common in schizophrenia. Difficulties in working and long-term memory, attention, executive functioning, and speed of processing also commonly occur.
Late adolescence and early adulthood are peak periods for the onset of schizophrenia, critical years in a young adult's social and vocational development. In 40% of men and 23% of women diagnosed with schizophrenia, the condition manifested itself before the age of 19.
Positive and negative symptoms in schizophrenia
Schizophrenia is often described in terms of positive and negative symptoms.
- Positive symptoms are those that most individuals do not normally experience but are present in people with schizophrenia. They can include delusions, disordered thoughts and speech, and tactile, auditory, visual, olfactory and gustatory hallucinations, typically regarded as manifestations of psychosis. Hallucinations are also typically related to the content of the delusional theme. Positive symptoms generally respond well to medication.
- Negative symptoms are deficits of normal emotional responses or of other thought processes, and respond less well to medication. They commonly include flat or blunted affect and emotion, poverty of speech, inability to experience pleasure, lack of desire to form relationships, and lack of motivation. Research suggests that negative symptoms contribute more to poor quality of life, functional disability, and the burden on others than do positive symptoms. People with prominent negative symptoms often have a history of poor adjustment before the onset of illness, and response to medication is often limited.
Moreover two other types of symptoms may be associated to schizophrenia: catatonia and disorganization , related to specific subtypes of schizophrenia.
People newly in love are more responsive to positive feedback, 2012
A pilot study of loving-kindness meditation for the negative symptoms of schizophrenia, 2011
The role of dopamine pathologically and non-pathologically
Neuropsychological researches have shown that many schizophrenic symptoms are due to dopaminergic systems’ disorders; in fact it’s clinically widely accepted the use of anti-dopamine drugs to improve patients’ conditions.
It looks like that dopaminergic receptors, in particular, D2 receptors , in schizophrenic patients are always filled up with neurotransmitter causing those symptoms.
The effects of an excess of dopamine may be studied in other pathological and non-pathological situations.
In people addicted to cocaine , dopamine isn’t removed from the synaptic space inducing an overlong nervous excited state which initially cause euphoria, improvement in focus, hallucinations, then delusions, depression and anorexia. These are also typical symptoms of schizophrenia.
A mutation in the functionally critical tetrahydrobiopterin cofactor binding domain of the PAH gene had been identified in African-American patients with the diagnosis of schizophrenia, and biochemical analyses suggested that this mutation has physiological consequences related to amine neurotransmitter function.
BH4 is an essential cofactor for the synthesis of:
- Noradrenaline and adrenaline
- NO (Nitric Oxide)
A mutation in the BH4 may suggest that people suffering from hypertension , due to a lack of NO , may have affective and emotional disorders; but the study of those cases goes far beyond the original purpose of this work.
Aromatic amino acid hydroxylase genes and schizophrenia, 2002
The behavioral, anatomical and pharmacological parallels between social attachment, love and addiction, 2012
Dopamine acts in the brain to create the feeling of euphoria when you first fall in love; it can also be responsible for feelings of hatred if a love goes sour. Every true love story is divided into four biochemical stages.
Chemical messengers like dopamine are responsible for the highs and lows of love. It’s the quality and quantity of these neurotransmitter molecules that makes love so powerful.
Love runs a course through four biochemical phases: attraction, romantic love, attachment and true love.
Ti amerò per sempre
Phase 1: Attraction
It’s the neurotransmitter phenylethylamine at work. When you’re attracted to someone, it can cause your stomach to churn and make you go weak in the knees.
Testosterone is the universal hormone of desire and the other neurotransmitter involved in this stage. In guys, girls and animals alike it’s responsible for sexual desire in response to attraction.
Attraction is instinctive, automatic and beyond our control since it takes place in primitive parts of the brain. It is activated by the senses – sight, hearing, smell and taste, usually in that order.
The pulses quickens, the pupils dilate, the mouth waters, the penis gets erect and the vagina gets wet. This is uncontrollable desire and in animals and humans it’s headed in one direction, sex. In people, this is passionate sex that’s full of desire, but lacking in euphoria and attachment, feelings which develop in later stages of love.
Phase 2: Romantic love
Infatuation with the guy or girl you’re attracted to happens when higher parts of the brain like the limbic system and more complex brain chemicals get involved.
You long to be with the person you can’t keep your eyes off because ultimately your goal is to reproduce with them. Thanks to dopamine , this guy or girl seems more beautiful, more desirable and free of flaws. In short, they appear to be perfect.
Love at this stage can cause people to lose their grip on reality. It’s powerful and fragile. And sometimes it fails. When romantic love doesn’t work out, dopamine can cause someone to hate their former lover as intensely as they were once infatuated by them.
Phase 3: Attachment
When the extreme highs and lows of romantic love grow into a stable relationship, the couple is in the attachment stage.
Stability and being able to make decisions characterise this stage of love because the neocortex, part of the brain involved in rational thought, enters the picture.
Pleasure hormones like endorphins increase during an orgasm and with affection. They are part of the link between sex and love that help ensure a couple stays happy together.
Orgasms and affection are also bound to love by the hormones oxytocin and vasopressin . Released during sex and in intimate moments, oxytocin in women and vasopressin in men strengthen the bond between a couple.
Phase 4: True love
Oxytocin continues to support this final stage of love that passes the test of time and can become a lifelong bond between a couple.
The biochemistry of love: an oxytocin hypothesis, 2013
Will you be my dopamine?
Musing of a molecular biologist
Love & schizophrenia
Epidemiological studies shown that schizophrenic patiences are mostly single and if they are married, they are more likely to divorce (60% higher than the rest of population).
Other researches had shown that patients affected with schizophrenia keep a very promiscuous sexual behavior, loveless towards their partners.
The reason for this complainable conduct has to be searched in the altered dopaminergic system of schizophrenic patients; in fact they are able to feel the first phase of love (attraction) but they are completely unable to step forward into the second phase, which is romantic love.
Neurotransmitters involved in the process of attraction are fully working but the ones involved in romantic love are compromised, therefore they can’t work properly.
That’s the reason why schizophrenic patients can’t bond affectively with anyone.
'The verses of madness': schizophrenia and poetry, 2012
DRD2 polymorphisms modulate reward and emotion processing, dopamine neurotransmission and openness to experience, 2012
Intense passionate love attenuates cigarette cue-reactivity in nicotine-deprived smokers: an FMRI study, 2012