Schizophrenia and MTHFR

Schizophrenia is a severe and chronic mental illness that affects over 24 million people around the world. Doctors have known for years that there is a genetic component to schizophrenia. Recent studies have begun to shed light on this genetic component, and one of the genetic polymorphisms that contributes to schizophrenia is MTHFR 677.

What is schizophrenia?
Schizophrenia is a mental illness that is characterized by three kinds of symptoms: positive symptoms, or things caused by schizophrenia, include hallucinations, paranoia and disordered thoughts; negative symptoms, or things schizophrenia interferes with, include loss of interest in activities, lack of emotion, and loss of motivation; finally, cognitive symptoms are the ways schizophrenia interferes with comprehension. These include memory loss and difficulty understanding information.

Extreme cases of schizophrenia are severely disabling and many people with severe schizophrenia are institutionalized. Some medications may help with schizophrenia but for the most part it is a matter of treating the symptoms.

What is the connection between schizophrenia and MTHFR?

Numerous studies have found that people with MTHFR 677 are more likely to develop schizophrenia than those who do not have this MTHFR anomaly. Some studies have shown a possible connection between MTHFR 1298 and schizophrenia, but the connection, if it exists, is weak. Interestingly, the MTHFR 677 also affects the symptoms of schizophrenia. People with MTHFR 677 who develop schizophrenia are more likely to have severe negative symptoms and mild negative symptoms.

Aside from knowing that people with MTHFR 677 are more likely to develop schizophrenia little is known about the connection. One study has suggested that for some reason MTHFR 677 contributes to schizophrenia by lowering levels of dopamine, an important neuro-chemical, in the prefontal cortex.

Additionally, one small scale study found that children of mothers with MTHFR 677 were more likely to develop schizophrenia. This might be because of the way the genetic anomaly interferes with folic acid absorption or might be because children of mothers with MTHFR 677 are more likely to have MTHFR 677 themselves. The authors of the study noted that more research would need to be done to verify their results.

I have schizophrenia, should I get tested for MTHFR?

If you have several other health problems that can be caused by MTHFR as well as schizophrenia you should probably talk with your doctor about getting tested. Also, if your schizophrenic symptoms match the pattern of severe negative symptoms and mild negative symptoms, it might be worth getting tested. Even if you don’t get tested for MTHFR, talk with your doctor about starting folate treatments, because several other genetic anomalies that are involved in the same chemical processes as MTHFR can contribute to schizophrenia.

I have MTHFR 677, should I worry about developing schizophrenia?
If you have had any symptoms of schizophrenia and didn’t realize what they were, you should probably speak with a mental health professional. However, schizophrenia usually develops in childhood or the teen years. If you are over 25 and have no symptoms you probably won’t develop schizophrenia now. You should be aware of the increased risk of any children you have developing schizophrenia due to the possibility of their inheriting the genetic anomaly from you.