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Cross-sectional studies indicate that hippocampal function is abnormal across stages of psychosis. Neural theories of psychosis pathophysiology suggest that dysfunction worsens with illness stage. Here, we test the hypothesis that hippocampal function is impaired in the early stage of psychosis and declines further over the next 2 years.
We measured hippocampal function over 2 years using a scene processing task in 147 participants (76 individuals in the early stage of a non-affective psychotic disorder and 71 demographically similar healthy control individuals). Two-year follow-up was completed in 97 individuals (50 early psychosis, 47 healthy control). Voxelwise longitudinal analysis of activation in response to scenes was carried out within a hippocampal region of interest to test for group differences at baseline and a group by time interaction.
At baseline, we observed lower anterior hippocampal activation in the early psychosis group relative to the healthy control group. Contrary to our hypothesis, hippocampal activation remained consistent and did not show the predicted decline over 2 years in the early psychosis group. Healthy controls showed a modest reduction in hippocampal activation after 2 years.
The results of this study suggest that hippocampal dysfunction in early psychosis does not worsen over 2 years and highlight the need for longer-term longitudinal studies.
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