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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.
Cortical thickness measurement offers an index of brain development processes. In healthy individuals, cortical thickness is reduced with increasing age and is related to cognitive decline. Cortical thinning has been reported in schizophrenia. Whether cortical thickness changes differently over time in patients and its impact on outcome remain unanswered.
Data were examined from 109 patients and 76 healthy controls drawn from the Santander Longitudinal Study of first-episode schizophrenia for whom adequate structural magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) data were available (n = 555 scans). Clinical and cognitive assessments and MRIs were acquired at three regular time points during a 3-year follow-up period. We investigated likely progressive cortical thickness changes in schizophrenia during the first 3 years after initiating antipsychotic treatment. The effects of cortical thickness changes on cognitive and clinical variables were also examined along with the impact of potential confounding factors.
There were significant diagnoses × scan time interaction main effects for total cortical thickness (F1,309.1 = 4.60, p = 0.033) and frontal cortical thickness (F1,310.6 = 5.30, p = 0.022), reflecting a lesser thinning over time in patients. Clinical and cognitive outcome was not associated with progressive cortical changes during the early years of the illness.
Cortical thickness abnormalities do not unswervingly progress, at least throughout the first years of the illness. Previous studies have suggested that modifiable factors may partly account for cortical thickness abnormalities. Therefore, the importance of implementing practical actions that may modify those factors and improve them over the course of the illness should be highlighted.
Trajectory patterns of positive, disorganized and negative dimension symptoms during antipsychotic treatment in drug-naive patients with first-episode psychosis have yet to be examined by using naturalistic data.
This pragmatic clinical trial randomized 161 drug-naive patients with a first episode of psychosis to olanzapine, risperidone or haloperidol. Patients were assessed with the Scale for the Assessment of Negative Symptoms (SANS) and Positive Symptoms (SAPS) at baseline and at the end of weeks 1, 2, 3, 4 and 6 of antipsychotic treatment. Censored normal models of response trajectories were developed with three dimensions of the SAPS-SANS scores (positive, disorganized and negative) in order to identify the different response trajectories. Diagnosis, cannabis use, duration of untreated psychosis (DUP), smoking and antipsychotic class were examined as possible predictive variables.
Patients were classified in five groups according to the positive dimension, three groups according to the disorganized dimension and five groups according to the negative dimension. Longer DUPs and cannabis use were associated with higher scores and poorer responses in the positive dimension. Cannabis use was associated with higher scores and poorer responses in the disorganized dimension. Only schizophrenia diagnosis was associated with higher scores and poorer responses in the negative dimension.
Our results illustrate the heterogeneity of short-term response to antipsychotics in patients with a first episode of psychosis and highlight markedly different patterns of response in the positive, disorganized and negative dimensions. DUP, cannabis use and diagnosis appeared to have a prognostic value in predicting treatment response with different implications for each dimension.
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