AURORA, Colo. (CBS4) – Researchers in Colorado have broken new ground in the prevention of schizophrenia after giving a brain boosting supplement to pregnant women and newborns.
The study looked at 100 pregnant women. Half were given choline, a nutritional supplement. The others got a placebo. Researchers say the brains of the babies who got the supplements seemed better wired.
The Mason boys are active and inquisitive, and William, at just 3 1/2, is already helping other children. While pregnant with William, Liz Mason agreed to be part of the medical study.
“I took uh seven pills a day, twice a day, in the morning and the afternoon,” Liz said.
The supplement was choline, an essential nutrient similar to vitamin B. It’s found in meats, fish, nuts and eggs.
“This is really an idea that’s been hatching for a very long time,” Dr. Randy Ross at the University of Colorado School of Medicine said.
Researchers gave choline supplements to pregnant women in their last two trimesters. The infants then got it for 33 days.
Ross is a child psychiatrist at the CU School of Medicine.
“This is really the first effort to look before a child is born, very early in life, see if we can do things that will improve brain development and make kids more resistant to getting schizophrenia and other kinds of similar illnesses later on,” Ross said.
When the babies were about a month old, researchers measured their brain waves in response to repeated clicking sounds.
“When the moms got choline during pregnancy, a lot higher percentage of those infants were able to screen out the second sound at a month of age,” Ross said.
The inability to screen out irrelevant information can be a marker for the risk of developing schizophrenia later in life.
The choline research is a look at prevention rather than treatment. Children like William will be monitored to find out if choline really does translate into fewer psychiatric problems.
Right now researchers aren’t recommending all pregnant women take choline supplements because it’s very early in the study and it will be years before they know for sure if choline is effective.