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Impaired brain metabolism may be central to schizophrenia pathophysiology, but the magnitude and consistency of metabolic dysfunction is unknown.
We searched MEDLINE, PsychINFO and EMBASE between 01/01/1980 and 13/05/2021 for studies comparing regional brain glucose metabolism using 18FDG-PET, in schizophrenia/first-episode psychosis v. controls. Effect sizes (Hedges g) were pooled using a random-effects model. Primary measures were regional absolute and relative CMRGlu in frontal, temporal, parietal and occipital lobes, basal ganglia and thalamus.
Thirty-six studies (1335 subjects) were included. Frontal absolute glucose metabolism (Hedge's g = −0.74 ± 0.54, p = 0.01; I2 = 67%) and metabolism relative to whole brain (g = −0.44 ± 0.34, p = 0.01; I2 = 55%) were lower in schizophrenia v. controls with moderate heterogeneity. Absolute frontal metabolism was lower in chronic (g = −1.18 ± 0.73) v. first-episode patients (g = −0.09 ± 0.88) and controls. Medicated patients showed frontal hypometabolism relative to controls (−1.04 ± 0.26) while metabolism in drug-free patients did not differ significantly from controls. There were no differences in parietal, temporal or occipital lobe or thalamic metabolism in schizophrenia v. controls. Excluding outliers, absolute basal ganglia metabolism was lower in schizophrenia v. controls (−0.25 ± 0.24, p = 0.049; I2 = 5%). Studies identified reporting voxel-based morphometry measures of absolute 18FDG uptake (eight studies) were also analysed using signed differential mapping analysis, finding lower 18FDG uptake in the left anterior cingulate gyrus (Z = −4.143; p = 0.007) and the left inferior orbital frontal gyrus (Z = −4.239; p = 0.02) in schizophrenia.
We report evidence for hypometabolism with large effect sizes in the frontal cortex in schizophrenia without consistent evidence for alterations in other brain regions. Our findings support the hypothesis of hypofrontality in schizophrenia.
Evidence from genetics, post mortem and animal studies suggest that N-Methyl-D-Aspartate Receptor (NMDAR) hypofunction has an important role in the pathophysiology of psychosis. However, it is not known if NMDAR activity is altered in the early stages of psychosis or if this links to symptom severity. Our aim was to investigate NMDAR availability in first-episode psychosis (FEP) and determine if it links to symptom severity. The NMDAR hypofunction hypothesis of schizophrenia was initially proposed in the 1990s on the basis of observations that ketamine and phencyclidine (PCP) induced the full range of schizophrenia-like symptoms (positive, negative and cognitive) when given to healthy participants and also that they worsen symptoms in patients with schizophrenia.
We recruited 40 volunteers, including 21 patients with schizophrenia from early intervention services in London (12 antipsychotic-free and 9 receiving antipsychotic medication) and 19 matched healthy controls. The uptake of an NMDAR selective ligand, [18F]GE179, was measured using positron emission tomography (PET) and indexed using the distribution volume ratio (DVR) and volume of distribution (VT, in millilitres per cubic centimetre) of [18F]GE179 in the hippocampus and additional exploratory regions (anterior cingulate cortex (ACC), thalamus, striatum and temporal lobe). Symptom severity was measured using the Positive and Negative Syndrome Scale (PANSS).
A total of 37 individuals were included in the analyses (mean [SD] age of controls, 26.7 [4.5] years; mean [SD] age of patients, 25.3 [4.9] years). There was a significant reduction in hippocampal DVR in the patients with schizophrenia relative to healthy controls (p = 0.02, Cohen's d = 0.81). Although the VT of [18F]GE179 was lower in absolute terms in patients, there was no significant effect of group on VT in the hippocampus (p = 0.15, Cohen's d = 0.49) or the exploratory brain regions. There was a negative association between hippocampal DVR and total PANSS symptoms (rho = –0.47, p = 0.04), depressive symptoms (rho = –0.67, p = 0.002), and general PANSS symptoms (rho = –0.74, p = 0.001).
These results indicate lower hippocampal NMDAR levels in schizophrenia relative to controls with a large effect size, and that lower NMDAR levels are associated with greater levels of symptom severity. These findings are consistent with the role of NMDAR hypofunction in the pathophysiology of schizophrenia; however, further work is required to test specificity and causal relationships.
Given that only a subgroup of patients with schizophrenia responds to first-line antipsychotic drugs, a key clinical question is what underlies treatment response. Observations that prefrontal activity correlates with striatal dopaminergic function, have led to the hypothesis that disrupted frontostriatal functional connectivity (FC) could be associated with altered dopaminergic function. Thus, the aim of this study was to investigate the relationship between frontostriatal FC and striatal dopamine synthesis capacity in patients with schizophrenia who had responded to first-line antipsychotic drug compared with those who had failed but responded to clozapine.
Twenty-four symptomatically stable patients with schizophrenia were recruited from Seoul National University Hospital, 12 of which responded to first-line antipsychotic drugs (first-line AP group) and 12 under clozapine (clozapine group), along with 12 matched healthy controls. All participants underwent resting-state functional magnetic resonance imaging and [18F]DOPA PET scans.
No significant difference was found in the total PANSS score between the patient groups. Voxel-based analysis showed a significant correlation between frontal FC to the associative striatum and the influx rate constant of [18F]DOPA in the corresponding region in the first-line AP group. Region-of-interest analysis confirmed the result (control group: R2 = 0.019, p = 0.665; first-line AP group: R2 = 0.675, p < 0.001; clozapine group: R2 = 0.324, p = 0.054) and the correlation coefficients were significantly different between the groups.
The relationship between striatal dopamine synthesis capacity and frontostriatal FC is different between responders to first-line treatment and clozapine treatment in schizophrenia, indicating that a different pathophysiology could underlie schizophrenia in patients who respond to first-line treatments relative to those who do not.
Converging lines of evidence implicate an important role for the immune system in schizophrenia. Microglia are the resident immune cells of the central nervous system and have many functions including neuroinflammation, axonal guidance and neurotrophic support. We aimed to provide a quantitative review of in vivo PET imaging studies of microglia activation in patients with schizophrenia compared with healthy controls.
Demographic, clinical and imaging measures were extracted from each study and meta-analysis was conducted using a random-effects model (Hedge's g). The difference in 18-kDa translocator protein (TSPO) binding between patients with schizophrenia and healthy controls, as quantified by either binding potential (BP) or volume of distribution (VT), was used as the main outcome. Sub-analysis and sensitivity analysis were carried out to investigate the effects of genotype, ligand and illness stage.
In total, 12 studies comprising 190 patients with schizophrenia and 200 healthy controls met inclusion criteria. There was a significant elevation in tracer binding in schizophrenia patients relative to controls when BP was used as an outcome measure, (Hedge's g = 0.31; p = 0.03) but no significant differences when VT was used (Hedge's g = −0.22; p = 0.29).
In conclusion, there is evidence for moderate elevations in TSPO tracer binding in grey matter relative to other brain tissue in schizophrenia when using BP as an outcome measure, but no difference when VT is the outcome measure. We discuss the relevance of these findings as well as the methodological issues that may underlie the contrasting difference between these outcomes.
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