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Biol Psychiatry. 1999 Oct 1;46(7):892-8.

Childhood-onset schizophrenia: progressive brain changes during adolescence.

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Child Psychiatry Branch, National Institute of Mental Health, Bethesda, MD 20892, USA.



Previous NIMH childhood onset schizophrenia (COS) anatomic brain MRI studies found progression of ventricular volume and other structural brain anomalies at 2-year follow up across mean ages 14 to 16 years. However, studies in adult patients generally do not show progression of ventricular volume or correlation of ventricular volume with duration of illness. To address issues of progression of brain anomalies in schizophrenia, this report extends previous studies to include a third longitudinal scan, uses a larger sample size, and includes measures of the amygdala and hippocampus.


Volumes of the total cerebrum, lateral ventricles, hippocampus, and amygdala were quantified on 208 brain magnetic resonance imaging scans from 42 adolescents with COS (23 with one or more repeat scan) and 74 age- and gender-matched controls (36 with one or more repeat scan). A statistical technique permitting combined use of cross-sectional and longitudinal data was used to assess age-related changes, linearity, and diagnostic group differences.


Differential nonlinear progression of brain anomalies was seen during adolescence with the total cerebrum and hippocampus decreasing and lateral ventricles increasing in the COS group. The developmental curves for these structures reached an asymptote by early adulthood for the COS group and did not significantly change with age in the control group.


These findings reconcile less striking progression of anatomic brain images usually seen for adult schizophrenia and complement other data consistent with time-limited, diagnostic-specific decreases in brain tissue. Adolescence appears to be a unique period of differential brain development in schizophrenia.

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