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Last updated on April 20, 2014 at 8:28 EDT

Biological Psychiatry Special Issue: Postmortem Research

January 18, 2011

Postmortem studies are critical to understanding psychiatric disorders

Biological Psychiatry is proud to announce this week’s publication of a special issue focusing on postmortem studies of psychosis.

This special issue showcases the use of human brains postmortem to study psychiatric disorders, focusing on schizophrenia. The review articles highlight the benefits, achievements, problems, and perhaps most importantly, the future of postmortem research.

Postmortem research, which allows scientists to study the brain directly via its tissue, is difficult and expensive. Hence, it is a relatively rare avenue of research into brain disorders. Instead, such research more often focuses on studying the brain indirectly by using specialized imaging techniques, animal models, or blood markers.

However, the inherent difficulties of postmortem research can be overcome. Standards of tissue quality have been developed and are now commonly accepted. Brain banks have steadily increased their collections, increasing study sample sizes and thereby the robustness of their findings.

Advances in science and specialized techniques over recent years have also expanded the scope of the work that can be accomplished using postmortem brain tissue. In addition to structural distinctions, cellular, molecular, and genetic findings can be identified using a postmortem research approach.

Postmortem studies of brain have already contributed to our understanding of diseases such as schizophrenia, and will continue to do so. For example, critical work has already shown how brains from people with schizophrenia differ in terms of structure and function, and how the genes which contribute to causing these illnesses affect the brain.

Although these articles focus primarily on psychosis, postmortem work has the ability to shed light on a wide range of psychiatric disorders, including Alzheimer’s disease and depression.

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