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Psychopharmacology (Berl). 2000 Nov;152(4):383-9.

Prefrontal cortical hypometabolism during low-dose interferon alpha treatment.

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Department of Radiology, University of Freiburg, Germany.



To evaluate prospectively interferon alpha (IFN-alpha) associated effects on cerebral glucose metabolism and its correlation to neuropsychiatric symptoms during low-dose IFN-alpha-treatment.


Eleven patients treated with low-dose IFN-alpha for chronic hepatitis C were prospectively evaluated by neuropsychiatric tests and cerebral [18F]deoxyglucose positron emission tomography (FDG-PET) before and in the 12th week of treatment. PET images were spatially normalized, corrected for variance in global activity and pixel-based t-statistics were calculated for each set of PET scans using SPM96 software. Pixel-cluster with P<0.001 for hypo- or hypermetabolism were displayed in parametric images. Covariance analysis with neuropsychiatric tests was calculated for each cluster.


In week 12 of IFN-alpha treatment, significant hypometabolism with a decrease of local activity ranging from 8 to 12% was found in all patients bilaterally in the prefrontal cortex (BA 9), which correlated in a covariate analysis with changes in depression score as measured by Beck's Depression Inventory. Additionally, hypermetabolism with a maximum increase in local activity of 6-8% was seen in all patients in putamina as well as the left occipital region (BA 18). Before IFN-alpha treatment, only 1/11 patient showed depressive symptomatology. After 3 months of treatment, 6/11 patients were classified as having mild to moderate depressive symptoms (P<0.1; Wilcoxon test).


Low-dose IFN-alpha therapy is associated with significant prefrontal hypometabolism. This hypometabolism covaried with depression score, but was even found in clinically non-depressed patients. These findings may reflect a possible predisposing factor for IFN-alpha associated neuropsychiatric syndromes and might contribute to a pathophysiological model of affective disorders, as endogenous IFN-alpha levels are elevated in a subset of psychotic patients during acute disease.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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