Gray matter deficits in young onset schizophrenia are independent of age of onset
This study examined whether the degree of brain dysmorphology observable in adulthood was related to onset age of schizophrenic symptoms. Brain magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans were acquired in 57 men with schizophrenia, whose age at MRI was 19-53 years, and whose symptom onset ranged from age 7 to 29 years; all were inpatients in a state hospital. Volumes of intracranial space, cortical gray matter (GM) and white matter (WM), and cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) in lateral and third ventricles and cortical sulci were derived from MRI scans and corrected by regression analysis for variations attributable to age and head size, quantified in a control sample of healthy community volunteers. The schizophrenic patients had larger volumes of cortical and ventricular CSF and smaller volumes of cortical GM but not WM than age-matched controls, whether or not volumes were adjusted for head size and age norms. Age of onset did not correlate with any of the five age-adjusted brain measures. Neither current age, length of illness, nor symptom severity correlated with age-normalized volumes of cortical GM, sulcal CSF, or ventricular CSF. These observations are consistent with the theory that brain structure deficits 1) first develop prior to symptom onset (perhaps during the prenatal and/or early childhood process of GM development); 2) probably establish a vulnerability to subsequent dysfunctionality; but 3) are nonprogressive.
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