Schizophrenia Associated With Elevated Glutamate in Several Brain Regions Interview with:

Kate Merritt Post-Doctoral Research Worker NOC Study (Nitric Oxide in Cognition) Institute of Psychiatry De Crespigny Park London

Dr. Kate Merritt

Kate Merritt PhD
Post-Doctoral Research Worker
NOC Study (Nitric Oxide in Cognition)
Institute of Psychiatry
De Crespigny Park
London What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Dr. Merritt: Research has indicated that levels of one of the main chemicals in the brain, glutamate, may be abnormal in schizophrenia. Almost sixty studies have measured glutamate levels in schizophrenia, however the findings are inconsistent, and it is thought that changes in glutamate levels may vary with the length or the severity of illness. This study therefore analysed all the published reports of glutamate in schizophrenia.

The main findings are that, overall, schizophrenia is associated with elevated glutamate in several brain regions; namely the medial temporal cortex, the basal ganglia and the thalamus. These changes also differed with the stage of illness; in the medial frontal cortex, glutamate was increased in people at risk for developing schizophrenia, but not in people who had been diagnosed with schizophrenia for several years, whereas in the medial temporal lobe the opposite pattern was detected. What should readers take away from your report?

Dr. Merritt: The main finding is that brain glutamate is generally elevated in schizophrenia. This discovery supports the view that drugs that can reduce brain glutamate levels may have therapeutic potential. What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this study?

Dr. Merritt: More studies are needed, as glutamate measures could not be summarised for each patient group in every region. This will give us a better idea of the timing of glutamate changes in schizophrenia. Future research should investigate the effect of drugs that reduce glutamate on symptoms at different illness stages. Thank you for your contribution to the community.


Merritt K, Egerton A, Kempton MJ, Taylor MJ, McGuire PK. Nature of Glutamate Alterations in Schizophrenia: A Meta-analysis of Proton Magnetic Resonance Spectroscopy Studies.JAMA Psychiatry. Published online June 15, 2016. doi:10.1001/jamapsychiatry.2016.0442.

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Last Updated on June 16, 2016 by Marie Benz MD FAAD