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Schizophr Res. 2002 Dec 1;58(2-3):173-83.

Decreased left amygdala and hippocampal volumes in young offspring at risk for schizophrenia.

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  • 1Department of Psychiatry, UPMC Health System-Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, 3811 O'Hara Street, Room 984, Pittsburgh, PA 15213, USA.


Abnormalities in the structural integrity and connectivity of the medial temporal and the prefrontal cortex are well documented in schizophrenia, but it is unclear if they represent premorbid indicators of neuropathology. Studies of young relatives at high-risk for schizophrenia (HR) provide an opportunity to clarify this question. We herein provide data from a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) study of these structures in young offspring of schizophrenia patients. A series of 17 young HR offspring of schizophrenic patients were compared with 22 healthy comparison subjects (HC). Morphometric comparisons of the right and left dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC), and the anterior and posterior amygdala-hippocampal (A-H) complex were conducted using high-resolution whole brain T(1) weighted brain images. Compared with the HC group, HR subjects had significant decreases in intracranial volume. The volumes of the left anterior and posterior A-H complex were reduced in the HR subjects after adjusting for intracranial volume. HR subjects also showed a significant leftward (Right>Left) asymmetry of the anterior A-H complex compared to the HC subjects. No significant changes were seen in the DLPFC. Thus, lateralized alterations in the volume of the left A-H complex are evident in unaffected young offspring of schizophrenia patients and may be of neurodevelopmental origin. Follow-up studies are needed to examine the predictive value of these measures for future emergence of schizophrenia in at-risk individuals.

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