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Commun Integr Biol. 2011 Mar;4(2):211-2. doi: 10.4161/cib.4.2.14492.

Readdressing synaptic pruning theory for schizophrenia: Combination of brain imaging and cell biology.

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Department of Psychiatry; Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine; Baltimore, MD USA.


Disturbance in the synapse has been suggested in the pathology of schizophrenia, especially through examination of autopsied brains from patients with the disease. Nonetheless, it has been unclear whether and how such disturbance is associated with the onset and progression of the disease in young adulthood. Some studies with magnetic resonance spectroscopy (MRS) have suggested that overpruning of dendritic spines may occur in the prodromal and early stages of schizophrenia. In addition, our recent study indicates that DISC1, a promising risk factor for schizophrenia, has a crucial role in the maintenance of the dendritic spine in association with activation of the NMDA-type glutamate receptor.1 Disturbance of spine maintenance can be linked to aberrant synaptic pruning during postnatal brain maturation. Biological studies with genetic models may provide us with an opportunity to validate experimentally the synaptic pruning theory for schizophrenia. An integrative strategy of brain imaging and cell biology may be a promising approach to address a key biological question for mental illnesses.


DISC1; dendritic spine; magnetic resonance spectroscopy (MRS); schizophrenia; synaptic pruning

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