An Endocrine-Disruption Theory of Schizophrenia

Effects of Endocrine Disruptors compared with Abnormalities of Schizophrenia

2009 Study Abstract

In recent years, numerous substances have been identified as so-called “endocrine disruptors” because exposure to them results in disruption of normal endocrine function with possible adverse health outcomes.

The pathologic and behavioral abnormalities attributed to exposure to endocrine disruptors like bisphenol-A (BPA) have been studied in animals. Mental conditions ranging from cognitive impairment to autism have been linked to BPA exposure by more than one investigation. Concurrent with these developments in BPA research, schizophrenia research has continued to find evidence of possible endocrine or neuroendocrine involvement in the disease.

Sufficient information now exists for a comparison of the neurotoxicological and behavioral pathology associated with exposure to BPA and other endocrine disruptors to the abnormalities observed in schizophrenia.

This review summarizes these findings and proposes a theory of endocrine disruption, like that observed from BPA exposure, as a pathway of schizophrenia pathogenesis. The review shows similarities exist between the effects of exposure to BPA and other related chemicals with schizophrenia. These similarities can be observed in 11 broad categories of abnormality: physical development, brain anatomy, cellular anatomy, hormone function, neurotransmitters and receptors, proteins and factors, processes and substances, immunology, sexual development, social behaviors or physiological responses, and other behaviors. Some of these similarities are sexually dimorphic and support theories that sexual dimorphisms may be important to schizophrenia pathogenesis. Research recommendations for further elaboration of the theory are proposed.

… “Evidence that prenatal estrogen exposure may have the opposite effect than in adulthood emerged from reports of psychosis in patients prenatally exposed to the synthetic estrogen, diethylstilbestrol (DES).” …

… “The author chose to compare the endocrine-disrupting effects of BPA and a few other selected endocrine disruptors to schizophrenia primarily because there is substantial BPA-related literature available for review, and highly controversial claims have been made that BPA could be involved in other mental problems or psychiatric illnesses such as autism and attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). In addition, a recent government-sponsored panel expressed concern that BPA can impair normal neural and behavior development in fetuses, infants, and children.” …

… “In that study, BPA also increased gene expression of dopamine (DA) transporter in adult rats after neonatal exposure. The exposed rats were hyperactive, and the investigators proposed the hyperactive rats as possible models of autism or ADHD.” …

  • Read and download the full study (free access) Effects of Bisphenol-A and Other Endocrine Disruptors Compared With Abnormalities of Schizophrenia: An Endocrine-Disruption Theory of Schizophrenia, on the NCBI, PubMed, PMC2643957, 2009 Jan.
  • Image credit Institut Douglas.

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