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What is schizophrenia?

The causes of schizophrenia are not clear. The symptoms seem to indicate an imbalance in the actions of two brain chemicals: dopamine and serotonin. Scientists think that a malfunction of neurones in the brain areas that deal with emotions, memory and planning (the limbic system and frontal lobes) may be to blame. They hope that finding genes that predispose some people to schizophrenia will help. Some drugs (ecstasy or LSD, for example) or stress can trigger symptoms of schizophrenia in some people.

PET scans of a schizophrenia sufferer's brain (left) and normal brain (right).
PET scans of a schizophrenia sufferer's brain (left) and normal brain (right).
Dr Monty Buchsbaum, Peter Arnold Inc./Science Photo Library

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