Positron emission tomography and subcortical glucose metabolism in schizophrenia
Our previous observation of a disturbed subcortical-to-cortical gradient of activity in schizophrenia was further elucidated by examining glucose metabolism in three subcortical structures: lenticular nucleus, caudate nucleus, and thalamus. Local cerebral glucose metabolism was determined with 18F- fluorodeoxyglucose using positron emission tomography (PET) in a sample of 20 unmedicated schizphrenics and 18 normal volunteers. Repeated evaluations were performed for 12 schizophrenics following treatment with psychotropic medications and for 11 controls. Unmedicated schizophrenics had lower cortical and caudate absolute metabolic rates. Subcortical-to-cortical ratios for the lenticular nucleus and thalamus were increased in schizophrenics compared with controls, reflecting a preservation of activity in these structures relative to decreased cortical metabolism. When patients were grouped by length of medication-free period before the initial study, there was a trend for patients who had been medication free < 6 months to have higher subcortical ratios. However, there were no consistent effects of medication in the subsample of patients whose PET studies were repeated following treatment. The results demonstrate relative hypermetabolism in structures implicated in dopamine pathways. An understanding of the physiological significance of this finding awaits the combined measurement of metabolic activity and neuroreceptors in schizophrenics.
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