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Smaller auditory cortex volume in schizophrenia patients with auditory hallucinations (AH) may be a result of reduced cortical surface area and/or cortical thickness. A neuro–imaging study from our group demonstrated that adult schizophrenia spectrum patients with AH had significantly thinner cortex in the left side Heschl's gyrus (HG), compared to patients without AH, and healthy controls (HC).
This study aims to investigate if adolescents with early-onset psychosis (EOP) and AH demonstrate thinner cortices in HG, as found in Mørch-Johnsen et al. in 2016, compared to EOP patients without AH, and HC.
EOP patients (schizophrenia spectrum, psychotic disorder not otherwise specified) (n = 29) underwent MRI. Mean volume, cortical thickness and surface area in auditory cortex regions (HG, superior temporal gyrus [STG]) were compared between patients with AH (n = 20) and without AH (n = 9), measured with item P3 from the Positive And Negative Syndrome Scale (PANSS), and 48 HC.
Preliminary results show no significant differences between patients with and without AH and HC in mean volume, cortical thickness, or surface area in HG or STG. There were no significant side differences across hemispheres for these structures.
AH in EOP were not related to smaller volume, thinner cortex or reduced surface area in auditory cortex regions. To overcome the limitation of having a relatively small sample size, the sample will be expanded with other EOP cohorts. Investigations into HG structure variation in relation to AH in EOP will also be conducted.
Disclosure of interest
The authors have not supplied their declaration of competing interest.
Our understanding of the complex relationship between schizophrenia symptomatology and etiological factors can be improved by studying brain-based correlates of schizophrenia. Research showed that impairments in value processing and executive functioning, which have been associated with prefrontal brain areas [particularly the medial orbitofrontal cortex (MOFC)], are linked to negative symptoms. Here we tested the hypothesis that MOFC thickness is associated with negative symptom severity.
This study included 1985 individuals with schizophrenia from 17 research groups around the world contributing to the ENIGMA Schizophrenia Working Group. Cortical thickness values were obtained from T1-weighted structural brain scans using FreeSurfer. A meta-analysis across sites was conducted over effect sizes from a model predicting cortical thickness by negative symptom score (harmonized Scale for the Assessment of Negative Symptoms or Positive and Negative Syndrome Scale scores).
Meta-analytical results showed that left, but not right, MOFC thickness was significantly associated with negative symptom severity (βstd = −0.075; p = 0.019) after accounting for age, gender, and site. This effect remained significant (p = 0.036) in a model including overall illness severity. Covarying for duration of illness, age of onset, antipsychotic medication or handedness weakened the association of negative symptoms with left MOFC thickness. As part of a secondary analysis including 10 other prefrontal regions further associations in the left lateral orbitofrontal gyrus and pars opercularis emerged.
Using an unusually large cohort and a meta-analytical approach, our findings point towards a link between prefrontal thinning and negative symptom severity in schizophrenia. This finding provides further insight into the relationship between structural brain abnormalities and negative symptoms in schizophrenia.
Excessive alcohol use is associated with brain damage but less is known about brain effects from moderate alcohol use. Previous findings indicate that patients with severe mental illness, particularly schizophrenia, are vulnerable to alcohol-related brain damage. We investigated the association between levels of alcohol consumption and cortical and subcortical brain structures in schizophrenia and bipolar disorder patients and healthy controls, and investigated for group differences for this association.
1.5 T structural magnetic resonance images were acquired of 609 alcohol-using participants (165 schizophrenia patients, 172 bipolar disorder patients, 272 healthy controls), mean (s.d.) age 34.2 (9.9) years, 52% men. Past year alcohol use was assessed with the Alcohol Use Disorder Identification Test – Consumption part (AUDIT-C). General linear models were used to investigate associations between AUDIT-C score and cortical thickness, surface area, and total brain and subcortical volumes.
Increasing AUDIT-C score was linearly associated with thinner cortex in medial and dorsolateral frontal and parieto-occipital regions, and with larger left lateral ventricle volume. There was no significant interaction between AUDIT-C score and diagnostic group. The findings remained significant after controlling for substance use disorders, antipsychotic medication and illness severity.
The results show a dose-dependent relationship between alcohol use and thinner cortex and ventricular expansion. The findings are present also at lower levels of alcohol consumption and do not differ between schizophrenia or bipolar disorder patients compared to healthy controls. Our results do not support previous findings of increased vulnerability for alcohol-related brain damage in severe mental illness.
Schizophrenia and bipolar disorder share genetic risk factors and one possible illness mechanism is abnormal myelination. T1-weighted magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) tissue intensities are sensitive to myelin content. Therefore, the contrast between grey- and white-matter intensities may reflect myelination along the cortical surface.
MRI images were obtained from patients with schizophrenia (n = 214), bipolar disorder (n = 185), and healthy controls (n = 278) and processed in FreeSurfer. The grey/white-matter contrast was computed at each vertex as the difference between average grey-matter intensity (sampled 0–60% into the cortical ribbon) and average white-matter intensity (sampled 0–1.5 mm into subcortical white matter), normalized by their average. Group differences were tested using linear models covarying for age and sex.
Patients with schizophrenia had increased contrast compared to controls bilaterally in the post- and precentral gyri, the transverse temporal gyri and posterior insulae, and in parieto-occipital regions. In bipolar disorder, increased contrast was primarily localized in the left precentral gyrus. There were no significant differences between schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. Findings of increased contrast remained after adjusting for cortical area, thickness, and gyrification. We found no association with antipsychotic medication dose.
Increased contrast was found in highly myelinated low-level sensory and motor regions in schizophrenia, and to a lesser extent in bipolar disorder. We propose that these findings indicate reduced intracortical myelin. In accordance with the corollary discharge hypothesis, this could cause disinhibition of sensory input, resulting in distorted perceptual processing leading to the characteristic positive symptoms of schizophrenia.
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