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Altered cerebral blood flow (CBF) has been found in people at risk for psychosis, with first-episode psychosis (FEP) and with chronic schizophrenia (SCZ). Studies using arterial spin labelling (ASL) have shown reduction of cortical CBF and increased subcortical CBF in SCZ. Previous studies have investigated CBF using ASL in FEP, reporting increased CBF in striatum and reduced CBF in frontal cortex. However, as these people were taking antipsychotics, it is unclear whether these changes are related to the disorder or antipsychotic treatment and how they relate to treatment response.
We examined CBF in FEP free from antipsychotic medication (N = 21), compared to healthy controls (N = 22). Both absolute and relative-to-global CBF were assessed. We also investigated the association between baseline CBF and treatment response in a partially nested follow-up study (N = 14).
There was significantly lower absolute CBF in frontal cortex (Cohen's d = 0.84, p = 0.009) and no differences in striatum or hippocampus. Whole brain voxel-wise analysis revealed widespread cortical reductions in absolute CBF in large cortical clusters that encompassed occipital, parietal and frontal cortices (Threshold-Free Cluster Enhancement (TFCE)-corrected <0.05). No differences were found in relative-to-global CBF in the selected region of interests and in voxel-wise analysis. Relative-to-global frontal CBF was correlated with percentage change in total Positive and Negative Syndrome Scale after antipsychotic treatment (r = 0.67, p = 0.008).
These results show lower cortical absolute perfusion in FEP prior to starting antipsychotic treatment and suggest relative-to-global frontal CBF as assessed with magnetic resonance imaging could potentially serve as a biomarker for antipsychotic response.
Given that only a subgroup of patients with schizophrenia responds to first-line antipsychotic drugs, a key clinical question is what underlies treatment response. Observations that prefrontal activity correlates with striatal dopaminergic function, have led to the hypothesis that disrupted frontostriatal functional connectivity (FC) could be associated with altered dopaminergic function. Thus, the aim of this study was to investigate the relationship between frontostriatal FC and striatal dopamine synthesis capacity in patients with schizophrenia who had responded to first-line antipsychotic drug compared with those who had failed but responded to clozapine.
Twenty-four symptomatically stable patients with schizophrenia were recruited from Seoul National University Hospital, 12 of which responded to first-line antipsychotic drugs (first-line AP group) and 12 under clozapine (clozapine group), along with 12 matched healthy controls. All participants underwent resting-state functional magnetic resonance imaging and [18F]DOPA PET scans.
No significant difference was found in the total PANSS score between the patient groups. Voxel-based analysis showed a significant correlation between frontal FC to the associative striatum and the influx rate constant of [18F]DOPA in the corresponding region in the first-line AP group. Region-of-interest analysis confirmed the result (control group: R2 = 0.019, p = 0.665; first-line AP group: R2 = 0.675, p < 0.001; clozapine group: R2 = 0.324, p = 0.054) and the correlation coefficients were significantly different between the groups.
The relationship between striatal dopamine synthesis capacity and frontostriatal FC is different between responders to first-line treatment and clozapine treatment in schizophrenia, indicating that a different pathophysiology could underlie schizophrenia in patients who respond to first-line treatments relative to those who do not.
Converging lines of evidence implicate an important role for the immune system in schizophrenia. Microglia are the resident immune cells of the central nervous system and have many functions including neuroinflammation, axonal guidance and neurotrophic support. We aimed to provide a quantitative review of in vivo PET imaging studies of microglia activation in patients with schizophrenia compared with healthy controls.
Demographic, clinical and imaging measures were extracted from each study and meta-analysis was conducted using a random-effects model (Hedge's g). The difference in 18-kDa translocator protein (TSPO) binding between patients with schizophrenia and healthy controls, as quantified by either binding potential (BP) or volume of distribution (VT), was used as the main outcome. Sub-analysis and sensitivity analysis were carried out to investigate the effects of genotype, ligand and illness stage.
In total, 12 studies comprising 190 patients with schizophrenia and 200 healthy controls met inclusion criteria. There was a significant elevation in tracer binding in schizophrenia patients relative to controls when BP was used as an outcome measure, (Hedge's g = 0.31; p = 0.03) but no significant differences when VT was used (Hedge's g = −0.22; p = 0.29).
In conclusion, there is evidence for moderate elevations in TSPO tracer binding in grey matter relative to other brain tissue in schizophrenia when using BP as an outcome measure, but no difference when VT is the outcome measure. We discuss the relevance of these findings as well as the methodological issues that may underlie the contrasting difference between these outcomes.
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