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Understanding Schizophrenia
Thomas W. Sedlak, M.D., Ph.D.
Assistant Professor, Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences
Director, Schizophrenia Consultation Clinic
Molecular Psychiatry Program

Schizophrenia is a complex brain disorder with many distinct abnormalities that have been associated with it, however integrating many of these different pathways, ranging from neurotransmitter abnormalities, to neonatal infections.

Glutamate is the main neurotransmitter of the everyone’s brain and evidence supports a role for glutamate abnormalities in schizophrenia. The most recent findings show abnormalities in glutathione, an antioxidant, in schizophrenia. Glutathione can serve as a storage form of glutamate and the hope is it will link together entirely distinct research threads in schizophrenia and suggest new ways to regulate glutamate, the main neurotransmitter of brain, which could offer new treatments for schizophrenia and other cognitive disorders.

Many of Dr. Sedlak’s colleagues in medical school chose specialties where a lot was known and where there are a lot of treatment options.  He was interested in research frontiers and went in the other direction. He was especially fascinated with schizophrenia, a severely debilitating illness that strikes young people just on the cusp of adulthood. 

One of his memorable early encounters, and a frustrating one, was trying to use gentle reason with a very delusional patient.  The patient was insisting that some sort of device had been secretly implanted in his brain and this was causing him to hear voices.   The patient had already had a state-of-the-art MRI to prove the delusion was false.

Dr. Sedlak recalls the situation, “I was naive, and perhaps a little cocky thinking I could just persuade him, and I said "Mr. so and so, this is Johns Hopkins, if you had something like that in you, we would have found it."  He just gave a disappointed smile back and me and shook his head, saying, "Well, I'm sorry to inform you Dr. Sedlak, but the voices told me they put one in you too!" 

Schizophrenia strikes youth just on the cusp of adulthood and often leads and individual severely impaired for life thereafter.  The work of Dr. Sedlak’s research group is interested in characterizing the brain biology of pathways relevant to schizophrenia, so that over the long haul better understanding and a treatment can be provided for this misunderstood entity.
Learn more about Dr. Sedlak

Additional Information:

Learn more about Schizophrenia - Hopkins Health Library

What is Schizophrenia - NIMH Website

The Johns Hopkins Schizophrenia Center
We strive to provide the finest possible clinical care for individuals with schizophrenia, schizoaffective disorders and related conditions as well as support for their families.

See current research being conducted at Johns Hopkins Brain Science Institute

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