Dr Katrina Green and Distinguished Professor Xu-Feng Huang. Photo by Photo by Simon Bullard.

IHMRI researchers are investigating the potential benefits of probiotics for people living with schizophrenia.

Schizophrenia affects cognitive function including memory loss, decision making and attention span, which are symptoms that are not effectively treated by antipsychotic medications.

IHMRI researchers will investigate the link between bacteria in our stomach and the brain to identify new ways to improve cognitive function.

A pilot study will soon get underway involving patients with schizophrenia from the Shellharbour Mental Health Service.

IHMRI’s Dr Katrina Green said the research involves measuring the microbiota (or gut bugs) of people with schizophrenia using genome sequencing.

“We will then compare tests of their cognitive function with their gut microbiota results,” she said.

There are around 1000 trillion microbial cells or bugs in the gastrointestinal system.

Probiotics are mostly bacteria, which assist in the natural balance of microflora in the intestines.

Studies so far suggest that dietary changes could improve cognitive function.

“The results of the study will help us identify which gut microbes to target,” explained Professor Nagesh Pai.

Professor Pai said it could potentially lead to improved schizophrenia treatments.

The research, led by Dr Katrina Green, Senior Professor Xu-Feng Huang, Professor Nagesh Pai and Dr Jason Clark, is being funded by an IHMRI Collaborative Project Grant involving the University of Wollongong and the Illawarra Shoalhaven Local Health District.

The results of the study will be used to make an National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) grant application in NSW to fund the next stage of the research.

Disclaimer: The researchers do not endorse replacing current medications with dietary changes. People living with a mental illness should always consult their medical practitioners with any questions about medications.

If you or anyone you know needs help with mental illness contact the SANE Australia helpline: 1800 18 SANE (7263) or visit www.sane.org.

Statistics on Schizophrenia

  • In Australia, approximately 1 in 100 people have or will develop schizophrenia during their lifetime and it is usually a life-long illness.
  • 80% of people with schizophrenia experience cognitive deficits including impaired memory, attention and decision making.
  • Schizophrenia ranks among the top 10 causes of disability in developed countries worldwide.

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