An in vivo MRI study of prefrontal cortical complexity in first-episode psychosis

Wiegand LC, Warfield SK, Levitt JJ, Hirayasu Y, Salisbury DF, Heckers S, Bouix S, Schwartz D, Spencer M, Dickey CC, Kikinis R, Jolesz FA, McCarley RW, Shenton ME

Am J Psychiatry 2005 Jan;162(1):65-70

PMID: 15625203


OBJECTIVE: The purpose of this study was to investigate abnormalities in the surface complexity of the prefrontal cortex and in the hemispheric asymmetry of cortical complexity in first-episode patients with schizophrenia.

METHOD: An estimate of the surface complexity of the prefrontal cortex was derived from the number of voxels along the boundary between gray matter and CSF. Magnetic resonance imaging scans were acquired from patients with a first episode of schizophrenia (N=17), patients with a first episode of affective psychosis (N=17), and normal comparison subjects (N=17), age-matched within a narrow age range (18-29 years). This study group was the focus of a previous study that showed lower prefrontal cortical volume in patients with schizophrenia.

RESULTS: Prefrontal cortical complexity was not significantly different among the groups. However, the schizophrenia patients differed significantly from the normal comparison subjects in asymmetry, with the schizophrenia patients showing less left-greater-than-right asymmetry in cortical complexity than the comparison subjects.

CONCLUSIONS: An abnormal pattern of asymmetry in the prefrontal cortex of first-episode patients with schizophrenia provides evidence for a neurodevelopmental mechanism in the etiology of schizophrenia.