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Neuroimage. 2012 Jan 16;59(2):986-96. doi: 10.1016/j.neuroimage.2011.08.066. Epub 2011 Sep 5.

Longitudinal loss of gray matter volume in patients with first-episode schizophrenia: DARTEL automated analysis and ROI validation.

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Laboratory of Neuroscience, Clinical Neuroscience Division, Department of Psychiatry, Boston Veterans Affairs Healthcare System, Brockton Division, Harvard Medical School, Brockton, Massachusetts, USA.


Region of Interest (ROI) longitudinal studies have detected progressive gray matter (GM) volume reductions in patients with first-episode schizophrenia (FESZ). However, there are only a few longitudinal voxel-based morphometry (VBM) studies, and these have been limited in ability to detect relationships between volume loss and symptoms, perhaps because of methodologic issues. Nor have previous studies compared and validated VBM results with manual Region of Interest (ROI) analysis. In the present VBM study, high-dimensional warping and individualized baseline-rescan templates were used to evaluate longitudinal volume changes within subjects and compared with longitudinal manual ROI analysis on the same subjects. VBM evaluated thirty-three FESZ and thirty-six matched healthy control subjects (HC) at baseline (cross-sectionally) and longitudinally evaluated 21 FESZ and 23 HC after an average of 1.5 years from baseline scans. Correlation analyses detected the relationship between changes in regional GM volumes in FESZ and clinical symptoms derived from the Brief Psychiatric Rating Scale, as well as cognitive function as assessed by the Mini-Mental State Examination. At baseline, patients with FESZ had significantly smaller GM volume compared to HC in some regions including the left superior temporal gyrus (STG). On rescan after 1.5 years, patients showed significant GM volume reductions compared with HC in the left STG including Heschl's gyrus, and in widespread brain neocortical regions of frontal, parietal, and limbic regions including the cingulate gyrus. FESZ showed an association of positive symptoms and volume loss in temporal (especially STG) and frontal regions, and negative symptoms and volume loss in STG and frontal regions. Worse cognitive function was linked to widespread volume reduction, in frontal, temporal and parietal regions. The validation VBM analyses showed results similar to our previous ROI findings for STG and cingulate gyrus. We conclude FESZ show widespread, progressive GM volume reductions in many brain regions. Importantly, these reductions are directly associated with a worse clinical course. Congruence with ROI analyses suggests the promise of this longitudinal VBM methodology.

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