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It remains unclear whether the topological deficits of the white matter network documented in cross-sectional studies of chronic schizophrenia patients are due to chronic illness or to other factors such as antipsychotic treatment effects. To answer this question, we evaluated the white matter network in medication-naive first-episode schizophrenia patients (FESP) before and after a course of treatment.
We performed a longitudinal diffusion tensor imaging study in 42 drug-naive FESP at baseline and then after 8 weeks of risperidone monotherapy, and compared them with 38 healthy volunteers. Graph theory was utilized to calculate the topological characteristics of brain anatomical network. Patients’ clinical state was evaluated using the Positive and Negative Syndrome Scale (PANSS) before and after treatment.
Pretreatment, patients had relatively intact overall topological organizations, and deficient nodal topological properties primarily in prefrontal gyrus and limbic system components such as the bilateral anterior and posterior cingulate. Treatment with risperidone normalized topological parameters in the limbic system, and the enhancement positively correlated with the reduction in PANSS-positive symptoms. Prefrontal topological impairments persisted following treatment and negative symptoms did not improve.
During the early phase of antipsychotic medication treatment there are region-specific alterations in white matter topological measures. Limbic white matter topological dysfunction improves with positive symptom reduction. Prefrontal deficits and negative symptoms are unresponsive to medication intervention, and prefrontal deficits are potential trait biomarkers and targets for negative symptom treatment development.
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