Can glutathione help schizophrenia? Schizophrenia, a psychological disorder characterized by impairment in a person’s ability to think clearly and manage emotions, is believed to affect an estimated 300,000 Canadians. Worldwide, up to 0.7 per cent of individuals are diagnosed with the mental disorder. Even Vincent Van Gogh, the artist who created the famous “The Starry Night” painting, suffered from schizophrenia.
Symptoms can include paranoia, delusions, disorganized speech and thought process and auditory hallucinations. Individuals living with schizophrenia may encounter significant social or occupational difficulties. It is believed the disorder is caused by a combination of genetic and environmental factors. One of the biological factors may be due to low levels of the tripeptide glutathione.
In a study conducted at the University of Lausanne in Switzerland, researchers looked at a precursor of glutathione, N-acetyl-cysteine, to see if it would improve neural synchronicity. Previous studies revealed that irregularities in neural connectivity leads to the symptoms expressed in schizophrenics.
For the double-blind, randomized trial researchers Cristian Carmeli, Maria Knyazeva, Michel Cuenod and Kim Do examined whether treatment with glutathione precursor N-acetyl-cysteine would improve EEG synchronization in schizophrenic patients. Eleven patients with a history of schizophrenia participated in the study.
One group received glutathione precursor N-acetyl-cysteine for two months as part of their treatment and placebo for the second half of treatment. Another group was given the placebo treatment first for two months and then the glutathione precursor N-acetyl-cysteine treatment for the two months after. All participants remained on their usual antipsychotic medication throughout the trial. EEG recordings were done before treatment, at the crossover and at the end of the trial.
The effects of the glutathione precursor in neural synchronicity
At the end of the experiment, the researchers found that glutathione precursor N-acetyl-cysteine significantly increased EEG synchronization, especially in the clusters located over the parieto-temporal, right temporal and right prefrontal lobes. The researchers believe that with treatment of glutathione precursor N-acetyl-cysteine, negative symptoms of schizophrenia will improve along with reduced side-effects of antipsychotics.
Based on these results they’re hopeful that the precursor to glutathione, N-acetyl-cysteine, has huge potential to be used towards treatment for schizophrenia.