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Schizophr Res. 2009 Jul;112(1-3):7-13. doi: 10.1016/j.schres.2009.04.023. Epub 2009 May 17.

The effect of ageing on grey and white matter reductions in schizophrenia.

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MRC-Clinical Sciences Centre, Imperial College London, Hammersmith Hospital Campus, Du Cane Road, London, UK.


Total brain volume and, in particular gray matter (GM) volume is reduced in patients with schizophrenia and recent studies suggest there is greater progressive loss of brain volume in the patients with schizophrenia than in normal controls. However, as the longitudinal studies do not include life-long follow-up, it is not clear if this occurs across the lifespan or only in the early phase of the illness. In this study we investigated this by studying the effects of age on brain tissue volumes in schizophrenia (n=34, age range=27-65 years)to test the prediction that there is a progressive loss in grey matter volume with increasing age in patients compared to healthy controls (n=33, age range=18-73 years). The results showed there was diminished relative GM volume loss with age in patients with schizophrenia compared to controls--in contrast to our prediction. However, there was increased relative white matter (WM) loss with age in schizophrenia. The results also replicated previous findings that patients with schizophrenia have significantly lower total (1509 versus 1596 mm(3)) and regional GM volume (755 versus 822 mm(3)) and increased cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) volume when compared to matched healthy volunteers. Overall these findings indicate that the proportion of grey matter in schizophrenia is reduced compared to controls early in the illness, and this difference diminishes with age; the corresponding effect in the proportion of WM is an increase with age compared to controls. This suggests that illness related factors may differentially affect grey and white matter, with implications for understanding the pathophysiology of schizophrenia and related psychotic disorders.

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