Monday, November 20, 2017

The relationship between schizophrenia and autism

I mentioned that I attended an academic conference last weekend. At the stage, I saw some representative researchers presenting novel finding regarding psychiatry.

One of the things which attracted my attention was an attempt to distinguish autism from schizophrenia. These mental disorders are frequently misdiagnosed. Furthermore, not a few psychiatrists still believe these are the same disorder.

Autism was founded by Kanner in 1943. It is believed to be originated from subtle brain damage before the birth. Thus, patients with autism must present psychopathology in their childhood. In contrast, schizophrenia usually emerges at their adolescent. Recent studies claim there is a prodromal state for years before the definitive onset. Nonetheless, the idea that schizophrenia is a congenital disease is not supported by most psychiatrists.

The presenter was an AI researcher. And he reviewed massive brain images of the patients either schizophrenic, autistic, or normally developed control. He believed there were some mechanical differences found in brain MRI images between schizophrenia and autism.

Not surprisingly, his first study resulted in a complete failure. Interpersonal, and interinstitutional, differences were more magnificent than difference among diseases in the human brain images.

However, he never abandoned. He improved the algorithm of the image reading AI to eliminate such artifacts. After all, he could show three clusters on a two-dimensional graph. Thus, schizophrenic tendency and autistic tendency are distinguishable to some extent.

At least, he proved that these two mental disorders are different, albeit sharing some abnormalities, from the point of brain anatomy. It is a remarkable work, in my opinion.

Psychiatry has many rooms for further research. It is why it fascinates me.

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