Brain MRIs of children who have parents or siblings suffering from schizophrenia show a neural circuitry that is hyper-activated or stressed by tasks that peers that have no family history of the condition seem to handle easily.

Because these differences in brain functioning appear before neuropsychiatric symptoms such as trouble focusing, paranoid beliefs, or hallucinations, the scientists believe that the finding could point to early warning signs or “vulnerability markers” for schizophrenia.

“The downside is saying that anyone with a first degree relative with schizophrenia is doomed. Instead, we want to use our findings to identify those individuals with differences in brain function that indicate they are particularly vulnerable, so we can intervene to minimize that risk,” said senior study author Aysenil Belger, PhD, associate professor of psychiatry at the UNC School of Medicine.

Original source: http://www.med.unc.edu/