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Am J Psychiatry. 1998 Oct;155(10):1376-83.

Common pattern of cortical pathology in childhood-onset and adult-onset schizophrenia as identified by proton magnetic resonance spectroscopic imaging.

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  • 1Clinical Brain Disorders Branch, Intramural Research Programs, NIMH, Bethesda, MD, USA.



Multislice proton magnetic resonance spectroscopic imaging (1H-MRSI) permits simultaneous acquisition and mapping of signal intensities of N-acetyl-containing compounds (mainly N-acetylaspartate, NAA), choline-containing compounds (CHO), and creatine plus phosphocreatine (CRE) from multiple whole-brain slices consisting of small single-volume elements. Previous 1H-MRSI studies of adult patients with schizophrenia showed small NAA relative signals in the hippocampal area and in the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex in comparison with healthy subjects. As part of a program to address the pathophysiological continuity between childhood-onset and adult-onset schizophrenia, the authors performed 1H-MRSI of patients with childhood-onset schizophrenia to specifically test whether the hippocampal area and dorsolateral prefrontal cortex show the same abnormalities as seen in adult-onset schizophrenia.


A 1.5-T nuclear magnetic resonance machine was used to test 14 patients (mean age, 16.4 years) and 14 comparison subjects. Ratios of areas under the metabolite peaks of the proton spectra were determined (i.e., NAA/CRE, NAA/CHO, CHO/CRE) for multiple cortical and subcortical regions.


The patients showed significantly lower NAA/CRE ratios bilaterally in the hippocampal area and the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex than the comparison subjects. There were no significant differences in CHO/CRE or in NAA ratios in any other area sampled.


The present study shows that patients with childhood-onset schizophrenia have smaller than normal regional NAA relative signals, suggesting neuronal damage or malfunction in the hippocampal area and dorsolateral prefrontal cortex. These differences were similar in magnitude to those found in patients with adult-onset schizophrenia. The present data extend other evidence of a biological continuum between childhood- and adult-onset schizophrenia.

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