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J Korean Med Sci. 2010 Dec;25(12):1700-9. doi: 10.3346/jkms.2010.25.12.1700. Epub 2010 Nov 24.

Structural brain alterations in individuals at ultra-high risk for psychosis: a review of magnetic resonance imaging studies and future directions.

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Interdisciplinary Program in Neuroscience, Seoul National University, Seoul, Korea.


Individuals at ultra-high-risk (UHR) for psychosis have become a major focus for research designed to explore markers for early detection of and clinical intervention in schizophrenia. In particular, structural magnetic resonance imaging studies in UHR individuals have provided important insight into the neurobiological basis of psychosis and have shown the brain changes associated with clinical risk factors. In this review, we describe the structural brain abnormalities in magnetic resonance images in UHR individuals. The current accumulated data demonstrate that abnormalities in the prefrontal and temporal cortex and anterior cingulate cortex occur before illness onset. These regions are compatible with the regions of structural deficits found in schizophrenia and first-episode patients. In addition, the burgeoning evidence suggests that such structural abnormalities are potential markers for the transition to psychosis. However, most findings to date are limited because they are from cross-sectional rather than longitudinal studies. Recently, researchers have emphasized neurodevelopmental considerations with respect to brain structural alterations in UHR individuals. Future studies should be conducted to characterize the differences in the brain developmental trajectory between UHR individuals and healthy controls using a longitudinal design. These new studies should contribute to early detection and management as well as provide more predictive markers of later psychosis.


Magnetic Resonance Imaging; Neurodevelopment; Predictive Marker; Psychotic Disorders; Schizophrenia; Ultra-high-risk

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