Experts have known for a while now that accelerated shrinking of the brain occurs in those with manic depression and schizophrenia, but have only recently discovered that the brain begins shrinking in size before individuals actually become unwell.
The study itself involved examining individuals aged between 16 and 25 who had at least two relatives suffering with schizophrenia and were thus considered to be at a high risk of developing it themselves.
The results of the study showed that changes in brain size were actually happening in individuals at a high risk of the illness, before they actually began to develop symptoms. In addition to this, areas that were experiencing a loss of brain tissue were the areas of the brain that control personality, decision making and social behaviour.
Researchers are hopeful that these scans can eventually be used to identify the specific areas of shrinkage which could help doctors diagnose the condition and begin treatment in the very early stages or even before symptoms begin to show.