Regional prefrontal cortex gray matter volumes in youth at familial risk for schizophrenia from the Harvard Adolescent High Risk Study

Rosso IM, Makris N, Thermenos HW, Hodge SM, Brown A, Kennedy D, Caviness VS, Faraone SV, Tsuang MT, Seidman LJ

Schizophr. Res. 2010 Oct;123(1):15-21

PMID: 20705433


BACKGROUND: Regional prefrontal cortex gray matter reductions have been identified in schizophrenia, likely reflecting a combination of genetic vulnerability and disease effects. Few morphometric studies to date have examined regional prefrontal abnormalities in non-psychotic biological relatives who have not passed through the age range of peak risk for onset of psychosis. We conducted a region-of-interest morphometric study of prefrontal subregions in adolescent and young adult relatives of schizophrenia patients.

METHODS: Twenty-seven familial high-risk (FHR) first-degree relatives of schizophrenia patients and forty-eight control subjects without a family history of psychosis (ages 13-28) underwent high-resolution magnetic resonance imaging at 1.5Tesla. The prefrontal cortex was parcellated into polar, dorsolateral, ventrolateral, ventromedial and orbital subregions. The Chapman scales measured subpsychotic symptoms. General linear models examined associations of prefrontal subregion volumes with familial risk and subpsychotic symptoms.

RESULTS: FHR subjects had significantly reduced bilateral ventromedial prefrontal and frontal pole gray matter volumes compared with controls. Ventromedial volume was significantly negatively correlated with magical ideation and anhedonia scores in FHR subjects.

CONCLUSIONS: Selective, regional prefrontal gray matter reductions may differentially mark genetic vulnerability and early symptom processes among non-psychotic young adults at familial risk for schizophrenia.