Oxidative stress, prefrontal cortex hypomyelination and cognitive symptoms in schizophrenia

D.A. Maas, A. Valles, G.J.M. Martens*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Schizophrenia (SZ) is a neurodevelopmental disorder with a broad symptomatology, including cognitive symptoms that are thought to arise from the prefrontal cortex (PFC). The neurobiological aetiology of these symptoms remains elusive, yet both impaired redox control and PFC dysconnectivity have been recently implicated. PFC dysconnectivity has been linked to white matter, oligodendrocyte (OL) and myelin abnormalities in SZ patients. Myelin is produced by mature OLs, and OL precursor cells (OPCs) are exceptionally susceptible to oxidative stress. Here we propose a hypothesis for the aetiology of cognitive symptomatology in SZ: the redox-induced prefrontal OPC-dysfunctioning hypothesis. We pose that the combination of genetic and environmental factors causes oxidative stress marked by a build-up of reactive oxygen species that, during late adolescence, impair OPC signal transduction processes that are necessary for OPC proliferation and differentiation, and involve AMP-activated protein kinase, Akt-mTOR-P70S6K and peroxisome proliferator receptor alpha signalling. OPC dysfunctioning coincides with the relatively late onset of PFC myelination, causing hypomyelination and disruption of connectivity in this brain area. The resulting cognitive deficits arise in parallel with SZ onset. Hence, our hypothesis provides a novel neurobiological framework for the aetiology of SZ cognitive symptoms. Future research addressing our hypothesis could have important implications for the development of new (combined) antioxidant-and promyelination-based strategies to treat the cognitive symptoms in SZ.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere1171
JournalTranslational Psychiatry
Publication statusPublished - 18 Jul 2017

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