How the Weather Can Throw Off Your Psyche

Given our reading this past, and upcoming, week of Eden Express by Mark Vonnegut I thought it would be appropriate to search and discuss an article concerning schizophrenia.  In class we have been discussing the hypothesized environmental factors and genetic  predispositions that are linked to and suspected to cause the onset and progression of schizophrenia.  Among the ones discussed was the role of the seasonal environment on the development of the brain in adulthood and how it correlated with individuals diagnosed with the disorder.  One statistic stated that the likelihood of developing schizophrenia increased by 3 fold if you were born during the winter.  Though this was interesting, it wasn’t clear as to why this was the case, though it is to be expected since the source used was a correlational study.  In my search I came across an article describing a study in which a researcher takes a look at this correlation and puts it to the test, looking at schizophrenic patients’ brains using MRI.  

After reading the article, I went in search of the peer-reviewed journal article and found the study that it had described.  The study was conducted by Spiro P. Pantazatos and explored using MRIs to look at the grey matter in brain areas associated with schizophrenia and compare them to the general population without . Pantazatos found was that there is a great deal of validity to the correlation between season of birth and development of schizophrenia, as well as other disorders that have morphological brain differences in those that are afflicted.  In regards to schizophrenia, one of the things he found was that there was a significant reduction in the amount of grey matter in the Superior Temporal Sulcus, which has been implicated in schizophrenia, only in afflicted men born in what he defines as winter.  Under less stringent statistical conditions, he also found that women born in the summer months with schizophrenia had the same decreased volume of grey matter in the same region. 

After reading this article and study, I was only left with more questions, for instance, why the trend was reversed for men and women and why he only found a decreased amount of grey matter in these areas and not in other areas?

Here is the link for the news article: http://www.wired.com/wiredscience/2014/03/season-birth-etched-brain/

Pantazatos, S.T. (2013). Prediction of individual season of birth using MRI. NeuroImage, 88, 61-68. 

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One thought on “How the Weather Can Throw Off Your Psyche

  1. Due to this miserable winter, and overall cold climate with a rarity of any Vitamin D I was also intrigued as we learned about schizophrenia – how these environmental effects can make someone more prone to experiencing schizophrenia? This correlation between births in winter months and schizophrenia makes me think of whether it is just during birth that this can affect someone or if at a young age someone is exposed to just “winter weather” are they more likely to lead to the onset and progression of schizophrenia? Maybe taking this correlation a little father- seasonal depression is very popular now – so does living in warmer climates with less changes in season really do have more positive effects?

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