Letters; July 2008; Scientific American Magazine; by Staff Editor; 2 Page(s)
In ¿White Matter Matters,¿ R. Douglas
Fields reports that myelination problems
are implicated in schizophrenia. Certain
studies have found that the long-term outcome for schizophrenia patients is better
in developing countries than in developed
ones. Because myelin formation continues
into one¿s 20s and is affected by experience,
is it possible that an enriched living situation could help such patients recover some impaired myelin? Or that psychiatric drugs (less available in developing
countries) blunt neuronal activity that could assist further myelination?
FIELDS REPLIES: The parallel between schizophrenia recovery rates and reliance on medication in developing
and developed countries is interesting and may offer practical insights. But schizophrenia is a complex
disorder that has both genetic and environmental
components, making it difficult to conclude that either one¿s drug therapy or living situation provides a superior approach to treatment.