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Cortical glutamatergic dysfunction is thought to be fundamental for psychosis development, and may lead to structural degeneration through excitotoxicity. Glutamate levels have been related to gray matter volume (GMV) alterations in people at ultra-high risk of psychosis, and we previously reported GMV changes in individuals with high schizotypy (HS), which refers to the expression of schizophrenia-like characteristics in healthy people. This study sought to examine whether GMV changes in HS subjects are related to glutamate levels.
We selected 22 healthy subjects with HS and 23 healthy subjects with low schizotypy (LS) based on their rating on a self-report questionnaire for psychotic-like experiences. Glutamate levels were measured in the bilateral anterior cingulate cortex (ACC) using proton magnetic resonance spectroscopy, and GMV was assessed using voxel-based morphometry.
Subjects with HS showed GMV decreases in the rolandic operculum/superior temporal gyrus (pFWE = 0.045). Significant increases in GMV were also detected in HS, in the precuneus (pFWE = 0.043), thereby replicating our previous finding in a separate cohort, as well as in the ACC (pFWE = 0.041). While the HS and LS groups did not differ in ACC glutamate levels, in HS subjects ACC glutamate was negatively correlated with ACC GMV (pFWE = 0.026). Such association was absent in LS.
Our study shows that GMV findings in schizotypy are related to glutamate levels, supporting the hypothesis that glutamatergic function may lead to structural changes associated with the expression of psychotic-like experiences.
Impairments in the attribution of salience are thought to be fundamental to the development of psychotic symptoms and the onset of psychotic disorders. The aim of the present study was to explore longitudinal alterations in salience processing in ultra-high-risk subjects for psychosis.
A total of 23 ultra-high-risk subjects and 13 healthy controls underwent functional magnetic resonance imaging at two time points (mean interval of 17 months) while performing the Salience Attribution Test to assess neural responses to task-relevant (adaptive salience) and task-irrelevant (aberrant salience) stimulus features.
At presentation, high-risk subjects were less likely than controls to attribute salience to relevant features, and more likely to attribute salience to irrelevant stimulus features. These behavioural differences were no longer evident at follow-up. When attributing salience to relevant cue features, ultra-high-risk subjects showed less activation than controls in the ventral striatum at both baseline and follow-up. Within the high-risk sample, amelioration of abnormal beliefs over the follow-up period was correlated with an increase in right ventral striatum activation during the attribution of salience to relevant cue features.
These findings confirm that salience processing is perturbed in ultra-high-risk subjects for psychosis, that this is linked to alterations in ventral striatum function, and that clinical outcomes are related to longitudinal changes in ventral striatum function during salience processing.