El síndrome de la esquizofrenia

La esquizofrenia afecta a cerca de un 1% de la población mundial. Por lo general, los primeros síntomas aparecen cuando la persona tiene entre veinte y treinta años, y muchos de los pacientes nunca se recuperan totalmente. Lo que es aún peor, no sabemos casi nada acerca de sus causas.

Por una parte, hay importantes evidencias de que tiene una base biológica, ya que ocurre en las familias, lo que indica un componente genético. También hay sutiles anomalías en la estructura cerebral. El tratamiento con drogas, particularmente las que se centran en el neurotransmisor dopamina, pueden reducir los síntomas, pero el mecanismo de este efecto es desconocido y desgraciadamente pueden ocurrir (y de hecho ocurren) efectos secundarios.

Por otra parte, los síntomas característicos de la esquizofrenia se encuentran claramente en el campo de la mente. Los pacientes informan de alucinaciones (falsas percepciones) e ilusiones (falsas creencias). Pueden escuchar en voz alta sus propios pensamientos, o escuchar voces que les hablan. Pueden llegar a creer que se trata de fuerzas extrañas que están controlando sus acciones o insertando pensamientos en su mente. El desafío para el neuropsicólogo es demostrar la relación causal entre un desorden en el cerebro y estas extrañas experiencias.Mi propio punto de partida para comprender la esquizofrenia es la observación de que, en algunos casos, la "voz" que escuchan los pacientes es claramente su propia voz. Esta observación pone el problema bajo una luz ligeramente diferente: la pregunta no es por qué los pacientes oyen voces, sino por qué confunden su propia voz con la de otro. Esta interrogante se aplica también a otros síntomas. Por ejemplo, los pacientes con ilusiones de control dicen que sus movimientos no son suyos: sienten que otra persona los está realizando.Esto no es tan desconcertante como podría parecer a primera vista.

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