Progressive changes in schizophrenia: do they exist and what do they mean?

Anderson JE, O’Donnell BF, McCarley RW, Shenton ME

Restor. Neurol. Neurosci. 1998 Jun;12(2-3):175-84

PMID: 12671313


Schizophrenia is a disorder characterized by multiple symptoms, with a varied course and outcome. The etiology is yet unknown, but multiple pathological processes or, equally likely, a unique pathophysiological process, may be involved. Here, we review evidence for progressive changes in schizophrenia in order to understand further the pathophysiology of this disorder. We first present evidence for clinical and psycho-social changes over time, followed by evidence from structural brain studies that suggests that schizophrenia is a brain disorder. We then review findings from the small number of longitudinal studies that have evaluated structural brain changes in schizophrenia, followed by a review of the evidence for neurophysiological changes, both cross-sectional and longitudinal. This is followed by a discussion of possible cellular mechanisms, including NMDA receptor abnormalities, that might account for structural and functional brain changes (temporal and frontal), and we discuss how these abnormalities might be related to not only the specific signs and symptoms of schizophrenia but also to the onset and course of the illness. Finally, we discuss neurodevelopment (static and perhaps non-static alterations) and neurodegenerative theories of schizophrenia. We propose that the two are not mutually exclusive, but instead likely reflect a “two-hit” model for some subtypes of schizophrenia.