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Patients with 22q11.2 deletion syndrome (22q11DS) present a high risk of developing psychosis. While clinical and cognitive predictors for the conversion towards a full-blown psychotic disorder are well defined and largely used in practice, neural biomarkers do not yet exist. However, a number of investigations indicated an association between abnormalities in cortical morphology and higher symptoms severities in patients with 22q11DS. Nevertheless, few studies included homogeneous groups of patients differing in their psychotic symptoms profile.
In this study, we included 22 patients meeting the criteria for an ultra-high-risk (UHR) psychotic state and 22 age-, gender- and IQ-matched non-UHR patients. Measures of cortical morphology, including cortical thickness, volume, surface area and gyrification, were compared between the two groups using mass-univariate and multivariate comparisons. Furthermore, the development of these measures was tested in the two groups using a mixed-model approach.
Our results showed differences in cortical volume and surface area in UHR patients compared with non-UHR. In particular, we found a positive association between surface area and the rate of change of global functioning, suggesting that higher surface area is predictive of improved functioning with age. We also observed accelerated cortical thinning during adolescence in UHR patients with 22q11DS.
These results, although preliminary, suggest that alterations in cortical volume and surface area as well as altered development of cortical thickness may be associated to a greater probability to develop psychosis in 22q11DS.
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