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Biol Psychiatry. 2009 Sep 15;66(6):578-85. doi: 10.1016/j.biopsych.2009.02.011. Epub 2009 May 1.

In vivo neuropathology of cortical changes in elderly persons with schizophrenia.

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LENITEM-Laboratory of Epidemiology Neuroimaging and Telemedicine, IRCCS Centro San Giovanni di Dio FBF, the National Centre for Research and Care of Alzheimer's and Mental Diseases, Brescia, Italy.



Elderly schizophrenia patients frequently develop cognitive impairment of unclear etiology. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) studies revealed brain structural abnormalities, but the pattern of cortical gray matter (GM) volume and its relationship with cognitive and behavioral symptoms are unknown.


Magnetic resonance scans were taken from elderly schizophrenia patients (n = 20, age 67 +/- 6 SD, Mini-Mental State Examination [MMSE] 23 +/- 4), Alzheimer's disease (AD) patients (n = 20, age 73 +/- 9, MMSE 22 +/- 4), and healthy elders (n = 20, age 73 +/- 8, MMSE 29 +/- 1). Patients were assessed with a comprehensive neuropsychological and behavioral battery. Cortical pattern matching and a region-of-interest analysis, based on Brodmann areas (BAs), were used to map three-dimensional (3-D) profiles of differences in patterns of gray matter volume among groups.


Schizophrenia patients had 10% and 11% lower total left and right GM volume than healthy elders (p < .001) and 7% and 5% more than AD patients (p = .06 and ns). Regions that had both significantly less gray matter than control subjects and gray matter volume as low as AD mapped to the cingulate gyrus and orbitofrontal cortex (BA 30, 23, 24, 32, 25, 11). The strongest correlate of gray matter volume in elderly schizophrenia patients, although nonsignificant, was the positive symptom subscale of the Positive and Negative Syndrome Scale, mapping to the right anterior cingulate area (r = .42, p = .06).


The orbitofrontal/cingulate region had low gray matter volume in elderly schizophrenia patients. Neither cognitive impairment nor psychiatric symptoms were significantly associated with structural differences, even if positive symptoms tended to be associated with increased gray matter volume in this area.

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