Hypothalamus and pituitary volume in schizophrenia: a structural MRI study

The International Journal of Neuropsychopharmacology (Impact Factor: 5.26). 02/2012; 15(02):281 - 288. DOI: 10.1017/S1461145711000794

ABSTRACT Volumetric differences of the hypothalamus and/or the pituitary gland tend to support involvement of the HPA axis in psychotic disorders. These structures were manually outlined in 154 schizophrenia patients and 156 matched healthy comparison subjects by MRI brain images. Linear regression analyses were performed to investigate differences in volume between groups. Moreover, the effects of illness duration and type of medication were investigated. No significant differences were found between patients and healthy controls in volumes of the hypothalamus and pituitary gland. In addition, there were no differences in volumes between patients with short and long illness duration. There was a trend towards patients receiving typical antipsychotic medication at the time of scanning having larger pituitary volumes than patients receiving atypical medication. These findings indicate that volume decreases in brain structures important for the normal functioning of the HPA axis are not present, either in recent-onset or chronically ill patients.

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    ABSTRACT: Introduction Pituitary enlargement has been reported in individuals with schizophrenic psychosis or an at-risk mental state for psychosis (ARMS). In a previous study, our group could show pituitary volume increase in first episode and ARMS patients with later transition to psychosis (ARMS-T). However, there are no longitudinal studies on this issue so far. We therefore examined longitudinally whether transition to psychosis would be accompanied by a further increase of pituitary volume in antipsychotic-naïve ARMS patients. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) data were acquired from 23 antipsychotic-naïve individuals with an ARMS. Ten subjects developed psychosis (ARMS-T) and 13 did not (ARMS-NT). ARMS-T were re-scanned after the onset of psychosis, and ARMS-NT were re-scanned at the end of the study period. There was no significant difference of the pituitary volume between ARMS-T and ARMS-NT in our sample, and there were no significant pituitary volume changes over time. Discussion Longitudinally, we could not detect any further volumetric changes in the pituitary volume with transition to psychosis. This, together with the result of our previous study, could indicate that the perceived level of stress in ARMS patients is constantly high from very early onward.
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May 31, 2014