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Studies of people with schizophrenia assessed using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) usually include patients with first-episode and chronic disease, yet brain abnormalities may be limited to those with chronic schizophrenia.
To determine whether patients with a first episode of schizophrenia have characteristic brain abnormalities.
Systematic review and meta-analysis of 66 papers comparing brain volume in patients with a first psychotic episode with volume in healthy controls.
Atotal of 52 cross-sectional studies included 1424 patients with a first psychotic episode; 16 longitudinal studies included 465 such patients. Meta-analysis suggests that whole brain and hippocampal volume are reduced (both P < 0.0001) and that ventricular volume is increased (P < 0.0001) in these patients relative to healthy controls.
Average volumetric changes are close to the limit of detection by MRI methods. It remains to be determined whether schizophrenia is a neurodegenerative process that begins at about the time of symptom onset, or whether it is better characterised as a neurodevelopmental process that produces abnormal brain volumes at an early age.
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