A Neurobiological Explanation
Foreword: Never before neurobiology was taken this seriously as a discipline to make such a prominent presence in researches related to psychiatry. Reasons are many: While on one hand the medical world came to understand the functioning of the central nervous system more, on the other, it helped understanding better the underlying relation, organization and interactions between the body cells and the nervous system. All these helped to reveal an entire plethora of new as well as exciting details about schizophrenia and its underlying causes and the mechanics of this disorder. Thanks to magnetic resonance imaging [MRI], electroencephalography [EEG] and magneto-encephalography [MEG]; these have helped immensely to probe into the details of the operations of neurons and their supporting cells on the protein levels including DNA. Spotting the difference in the brain-function patterns in healthy people and schizophrenics (or any other patient suffering from neurological/psychiatric disorders] just turned a lot more easier.
The Causes: Schizophrenia puts forth a number of key challenges, which make it a complex disorder that cannot be bound within predefined perimeters. Yet, there have been determined certain clinical manifestations that mark the onset of this disorder. It may sound funny that effects of schizophrenia, how much ever dramatic they might appear, initiates from fairly subtle alterations within the brain. The real challenge thus shows up in the form of understanding these modifications and how they get translated into the symptoms.
More than 80% of the times, it is the genetic makeup of an individual that stays responsible for schizophrenia to unsheathe its ugly face. Thus, we may say that specific genes (rather, malfunctioning of specific genes) stay responsible. But observations made it clear that it's not a specific type that will cause the illness; in that case, schizophrenia would have shared the same fate as plague. Rather, there are specific combinations that can be held worthy of the credit. Or, to simplify even further, it's a large number of mutated genes that work in combination to turn a person schizophrenic. The specific type of mutation these genes undergo is called copy-number variance in medical terminology.
For others, the roots of schizophrenia go beyond the genetic level and are too mild to be detected unless a method is devised for amplifying the resulting genetic signals.
The role genes play to initiate schizophrenia: Genes determine the protein codes for them to organize into cells, which in turn form the neural networks. Despite a myriad unknown processes occurring between the genetic level and their clinical detection, brain imaging has been found to delve up a few vital ones and measures the degree a particular gene is directly affecting the brain's structure and functioning. The most shocking part is: Some of these effects, though considered important biochemical procedures, have been found to affect brain activities in schizophrenics. That answers the question why Schizophrenia takes so long to be warded off once it is in its mid- to advanced stages.
Schizophrenia in children of elderly parents: The most probable cause could be an excess of unstable DNA structure of the sperm cells (in older men) that triggers an onset of the disorder; however, with the advancements being made in the studying of brain chemistry systems, we may expect newer drugs to come up soon that shall sport entirely different mechanisms of action.