Longitudinal study of brain morphology in first episode schizophrenia.

Department of Psychiatry, University of North Carolina School of Medicine, Chapel Hill, North Carolina 27599, USA.
Biological Psychiatry (Impact Factor: 9.47). 04/2001; 49(6):487-99. DOI: 10.1016/S0006-3223(01)01067-8
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT Beginning with Kraepelin, schizophrenia has been viewed as a progressive disorder. Although numerous studies of the longitudinal course of schizophrenia have demonstrated the clinical deterioration that occurs predominantly in the early stages of the illness, the pathophysiology of this clinical phenomenon has not been established. This aspect of the illness may be of critical importance to understanding the pathogenesis of schizophrenia and determining preventive therapeutic strategies. Abnormalities in brain morphology have been consistently described in schizophrenia, but it is not known when in the natural history of the illness they arise and whether they are progressive. Previous studies of brain morphology have been inconclusive, in part because of the variability of methods for image acquisition and analysis, assessment of patients already at chronic stages of their illness with extensive prior treatment exposure, and inadequate periods of follow-up.
To address these questions we examined 107 patients in their first episode of schizophrenia or schizoaffective disorder and 20 healthy volunteers using high resolution magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and clinical assessments of psychopathology and treatment outcome for periods of up to 6 years. Fifty-one patients and 13 control subjects had MRIs after at least 12 months of follow-up.
Results confirm the findings of ventricular enlargement and anterior hippocampal volume reductions in first episode schizophrenia patients that have been previously reported. In addition, we found changes in selected structures over time in relation to treatment outcome, including increases in ventricular volume that were associated with poor outcome patients. Contrary to our hypothesis, there were no significant reductions in cortical and hippocampal volumes over time.
The finding of progressive ventricular enlargement in patients with poor outcome schizophrenia is consistent with the hypothesis that persistent positive and negative symptoms result in progressive brain changes in the form of ventricular enlargement, possibly due to neurodegeneration rather than the confounding effects of treatment. Future studies of first episodes of schizophrenia should utilize higher resolution imaging techniques that compare clinically well characterized patients with and without poor outcome and recurrent symptoms to control subjects who are well matched to patients for age and gender. There is also a need to control for treatment effects of typical antipsychotic medication on brain structure.

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    ABSTRACT: BACKGROUND: Deficits in cortical gray matter (GM) have been found in patients with schizophrenia, with evidence of progression over time. The aim of this study was to determine the role of potential moderators of such changes, in particular of the amount and type of antipsychotic medication intake. METHODS: Longitudinal magnetic resonance imaging studies comparing changes in the volume of cortical GM over time between patients with schizophrenia and healthy control subjects published between January 1, 1983, and March 31, 2014, were analyzed. Hedges’ g was calculated for each study and volume changes from baseline to follow-up were analyzed. Meta-regression statistics were applied to investigate the role of potential moderators of the effect sizes. RESULTS: Eighteen studies involving 1155 patients with schizophrenia and 911 healthy control subjects were included. Over time, patients with schizophrenia showed a significantly higher loss of total cortical GM volume. This was related to cumulative antipsychotic intake during the interval between scans in the whole study sample. Subgroup meta-analyses of studies on patients treated with second-generation antipsychotics and first-generation antipsychotics revealed a different and contrasting moderating role of medication intake on cortical GM changes: more progressive GM loss correlated with higher mean daily antipsychotic intake in patients treated with at least one first-generation antipsychotic and less progressive GM loss with higher mean daily antipsychotic intake in patients treated only with second-generation antipsychotics. CONCLUSIONS: These findings add useful information to the controversial debate on the brain structural effects of antipsychotic medication and may have both clinical relevance and theoretical implications.
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    ABSTRACT: Magnetic resonance imaging-based markers of schizophrenia have been repeatedly shown to separate patients from healthy controls at the single-subject level, but it remains unclear whether these markers reliably distinguish schizophrenia from mood disorders across the life span and generalize to new patients as well as to early stages of these illnesses. The current study used structural MRI-based multivariate pattern classification to (i) identify and cross-validate a differential diagnostic signature separating patients with first-episode and recurrent stages of schizophrenia (n = 158) from patients with major depression (n = 104); and (ii) quantify the impact of major clinical variables, including disease stage, age of disease onset and accelerated brain ageing on the signature's classification performance. This diagnostic magnetic resonance imaging signature was then evaluated in an independent patient cohort from two different centres to test its generalizability to individuals with bipolar disorder (n = 35), first-episode psychosis (n = 23) and clinically defined at-risk mental states for psychosis (n = 89). Neuroanatomical diagnosis was correct in 80% and 72% of patients with major depression and schizophrenia, respectively, and involved a pattern of prefronto-temporo-limbic volume reductions and premotor, somatosensory and subcortical increments in schizophrenia versus major depression. Diagnostic performance was not influenced by the presence of depressive symptoms in schizophrenia or psychotic symptoms in major depression, but earlier disease onset and accelerated brain ageing promoted misclassification in major depression due to an increased neuroanatomical schizophrenia likeness of these patients. Furthermore, disease stage significantly moderated neuroanatomical diagnosis as recurrently-ill patients had higher misclassification rates (major depression: 23%; schizophrenia: 29%) than first-episode patients (major depression: 15%; schizophrenia: 12%). Finally, the trained biomarker assigned 74% of the bipolar patients to the major depression group, while 83% of the first-episode psychosis patients and 77% and 61% of the individuals with an ultra-high risk and low-risk state, respectively, were labelled with schizophrenia. Our findings suggest that neuroanatomical information may provide generalizable diagnostic tools distinguishing schizophrenia from mood disorders early in the course of psychosis. Disease course-related variables such as age of disease onset and disease stage as well alterations of structural brain maturation may strongly impact on the neuroanatomical separability of major depression and schizophrenia. © The Author (2015). Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the Guarantors of Brain. All rights reserved. For Permissions, please email:
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