To analyse associations between brain morphology and longitudinal and cross-sectional measures of outcomes in schizophrenia in a general population sample.
The sample was the Northern Finland 1966 Birth Cohort. In 1999-2001, structural brain MRI and measures of clinical and functional outcomes were analysed for 54 individuals with schizophrenia around the age of 34. Sex, total grey matter, duration of illness and the use of antipsychotic medication were used as covariates.
After controlling for multiple covariates, increased density of the left limbic area was associated with less hospitalisations and increased total white matter volume with being in remission. Higher density of left frontal grey matter was associated with not being on a disability pension and higher density of the left frontal lobe and left limbic area were related to better functioning. Higher density of the left limbic area was associated with better longitudinal course of illness.
This study, based on unselected general population data, long follow-up and an extensive database, confirms findings of previous studies, that morphological abnormalities in several brain structures are associated with outcome. The difference in brain morphology in patients with good and poor outcomes may reflect separable aetiologies and developmental trajectories in schizophrenia.
In schizophrenia, brain morphometric changes may be associated with antipsychotic medication. Only limited data is available concerning individuals with schizophrenia without antipsychotic medication. We aimed to study the associations of: use versus no use of antipsychotic medication; length of continuous time without antipsychotic medication; cumulative dose of lifetime antipsychotic medication; and type of antipsychotic medication; with brain morphometry in schizophrenia after an average of 10 years of illness.
Data of 63 individuals with schizophrenia (mean duration of illness 10.4 years) from the Northern Finland Birth Cohort 1966 were gathered by interview and from hospital and outpatient records. Structural MRI data at age 34 years were acquired and grey matter volume maps with voxel-based morphometry were analyzed using FSL tools.
Of the individuals studied, 15 (24%) had taken no antipsychotic medication during the previous year. Individuals with antipsychotic medication had lower total grey matter (TGM) volume compared with non-medicated subjects, although this association was not statistically significant (Cohen's d=-0.51, P=0.078). Time without antipsychotic medication associated with increased TGM (P=0.028). Longer time without antipsychotic medication associated with increased regional volume in right precentral gyrus and right middle frontal gyrus. There were no associations between cumulative dose of lifetime antipsychotic medication or type of antipsychotic medication and brain morphometry.
Unlike some previous investigators, we found no association between cumulative dose of lifetime antipsychotic medication and brain morphological changes in this population-based sample. However, longer continuous time without antipsychotic medication preceding the MRI scan associated with increased gray matter volume.
First-episode psychosis (FEP) patients show structural brain abnormalities. Whether the changes are progressive or not remain under debate, and the results from longitudinal magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) studies are mixed. We investigated if FEP patients showed a different pattern of regional brain structural change over a 1-year period compared with healthy controls, and if putative changes correlated with clinical characteristics and outcome.
MRIs of 79 FEP patients [SCID-I-verified diagnoses: schizophrenia, psychotic bipolar disorder, or other psychoses, mean age 27.6 (s.d. = 7.7) years, 66% male] and 82 healthy controls [age 29.3 (s.d. = 7.2) years, 66% male] were acquired from the same 1.5 T scanner at baseline and 1-year follow-up as part of the Thematically Organized Psychosis (TOP) study, Oslo, Norway. Scans were automatically processed with the longitudinal stream in FreeSurfer that creates an unbiased within-subject template image. General linear models were used to analyse longitudinal change in a wide range of subcortical volumes and detailed thickness and surface area estimates across the entire cortex, and associations with clinical characteristics.
FEP patients and controls did not differ significantly in annual percentage change in cortical thickness or area in any cortical region, or in any of the subcortical structures after adjustment for multiple comparisons. Within the FEP group, duration of untreated psychosis, age at illness onset, antipsychotic medication use and remission at follow-up were not related to longitudinal brain change.
We found no significant longitudinal brain changes over a 1-year period in FEP patients. Our results do not support early progressive brain changes in psychotic disorders.