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Int J Psychophysiol. 1994 Dec;18(3):189-203; discussion 187-8.

The maturational theory of brain development and cerebral excitability in the multifactorially inherited manic-depressive psychosis and schizophrenia.

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  • 1Department of Psychology, University of Trondheim, Norway.


An association has been established between the multifactorially inherited rate of physical maturation and the final step in brain development, when some 40% of synapses are eliminated. This may imply that similarly to endocrine disease entities, we have cerebral disease entities at the extremes of the maturational rate continuum. The restriction of prepubertal pruning to excitatory synapses leaving the number of inhibitory ones fairly constant, implies changes in cerebral excitability as a function of rate of maturation (age at puberty). In early maturation there will be an excess in excitatory drive due to prematurely abridged pruning, which compounds a synchronization tendency inherent in excessive synaptic density. Lowering excitatory level with antiepileptics is hypothesized to be a logical treatment in this type of brain dysfunction. In late maturation, a deficit in excitatory drive due to failure to shut down the pruning process associated with a tendency to the breakdown of circuitry and desynchronization, adds to a similar adversity inherent in reduced synaptic density. Raising the excitatory level with convulsants is hypothesized to be the treatment for this type of CNS dysfunction. The maturational theory of Kraepelin's psychoses holds that they are naturally occurring contrasting chemical signaling disorders in the brain at the extremes of the maturational rate continuum: manic depressive psychosis is a disorder of the early maturer and comprises raised cerebral excitability and a raised density of synapses. This is successfully treated with anti-epileptics like sodium valproate and carbamazepin. Schizophrenia is a disorder in late maturation with reduced cerebral excitability and reduced synaptic density. This is accordingly treated with convulsants such as typical and atypical neuroleptics. However, the conventional effective treatments in both disorders act on inhibition only by either lowering or raising inhibitory level. While the neuroleptics drugs are superior anti-psychotics they nevertheless do not affect the deviation in cerebral excitability which would explain why they do not cure. Disturbed circadian rhythms which precede psychotic episodes in manic depressives accord with a primary dysfunction in the CNS, the suprachiasmatic nucleus of the hypothalamus via its direct input the glutamatergic retinohypothalamic tract. The residual deficits in schizophrenia accord with persistently disconnected circuitry and communication which is a consequence of reduced excitatory level and is manifested in insufficient motivation, a reduced drive associated hypofunction, and neuromuscular dysfunction.

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