Cingulum bundle diffusivity and delusions of reference in first episode and chronic schizophrenia

Fitzsimmons J, Schneiderman JS, Whitford TJ, Swisher T, Niznikiewicz MA, Pelavin PE, Terry DP, Mesholam-Gately RI, Seidman LJ, Goldstein JM, Kubicki M

Psychiatry Res 2014 Nov;224(2):124-32

PMID: 25174840


The goal of this study was to assess integrity of the cingulum bundle in patients diagnosed with first episode schizophrenia, chronic schizophrenia, and matched controls as well as to determine the relationship between diffusion measures of cingulum bundle integrity and severity of patients’ delusions of reference. Participants, who comprised 18 first episode patients, 20 chronic patients, and two groups of matched controls (20 subjects in each), underwent 3 T MRI diffusion tensor imaging. Patients diagnosed with schizophrenia (chronic+first episode) showed decreased fractional anisotropy in the right cingulum bundle compared with controls. First episode patients exhibited higher trace bilaterally, compared with matched controls, and on the left compared with chronic patients. Axial diffusivity was increased in first episode patients, bilaterally, compared with matched controls and chronic patients. Radial diffusivity was also higher, bilaterally, in first episode patients compared with matched controls, and on the right compared with chronic patients. Trace diffusity and radial diffusivity in first episode patients were significantly correlated with increased severity of delusions of reference. Given that the abnormalities were present only in first episode patients and were not observed in chronic cases, it appears that they normalize over time. These abnormalities in first episode patients involved diffusivity measures in all directions (trace, radial and axial), suggesting a likely acute, partially reversible process in which there is an increase in brain water content, i.e., swelling, edema, or inflammation, that may reflect an early neuroinflammatory response in first episode patients.