The team, working with colleagues at the University of Cardiff, identified genetic mutations in patients with schizophrenia who had not inherited the condition, and proved that the mutations occurred in proteins related to memory function.
They compared the DNA of 650 patients with schizophrenia with the DNA of those without it to identify the genetic differences.
Professor Seth Grant said: “Although it has been known for some time that DNA mutations predispose individuals to the development of schizophrenia, it has remained a puzzle as to how these genes cause behavioural problems.
“The surprising finding was that DNA mutations that cause schizophrenia are interfering with the same proteins in the molecular machinery that controls learning and memory.
“The findings will help research into new drug therapies and in developing new diagnostic tests.”