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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.
Schizophrenia is a chronic brain disorder associated with structural brain abnormalities already present at the onset of the illness. Whether these brain abnormalities might progress over time is still under debate.
The aim of this study was to investigate likely progressive brain volume changes in schizophrenia during the first 3 years after initiating antipsychotic treatment. The study included 109 patients with a schizophrenia spectrum disorder and a control group of 76 healthy subjects. Subjects received detailed clinical and cognitive assessment and structural magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) at regular time points during a 3-year follow-up period. The effects of brain changes on cognitive and clinical variables were examined along with the impact of potential confounding factors.
Overall, patients and healthy controls exhibited a similar pattern of brain volume changes. However, patients showed a significant lower progressive decrease in the volume of the caudate nucleus than control subjects (F1,307.2 = 2.12, p = 0.035), with healthy subjects showing a greater reduction than patients during the follow-up period. Clinical and cognitive outcomes were not associated with progressive brain volume changes during the early years of the illness.
Brain volume abnormalities that have been consistently observed at the onset of non-affective psychosis may not inevitably progress, at least over the first years of the illness. Taking together with clinical and cognitive longitudinal data, our findings, showing a lack of brain deterioration in a substantial number of individuals, suggest a less pessimistic and more reassuring perception of the illness.
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