Objective: For many years, it has been assumed that medications affect brain chemistry and physiology but not structure. Recent reports suggest that neuroleptic medication changes basal ganglia volume. To explore this possibility, the authors assessed for basal ganglia volume change in individuals who had their basal ganglia structures delineated and measured on magnetic resonance scans at the beginning and end of a 2-year period and who received neuroleptic medication during this time.
Method: The basal ganglia volumes of 23 male patients with schizophrenia spectrum disorders were measured from manual traces delineating the caudate and lenticular nucleus on magnetic resonance images at admission and 2 years later. Patients' neuroleptic exposure was calculated over the 2 years by using a dose-year formula.
Results: During the 2-year period, mean basal ganglia volume of patients receiving predominantly typical neuroleptics increased, while the opposite was observed for patients receiving mostly atypical neuroleptics. Correlation analysis for the entire group showed a positive relationship between the 2-year exposure to typical neuroleptic medication and change in basal ganglia volume and the reverse for exposure to atypical neuroleptics.
Conclusions: In this group, basal ganglia volume increased following exposure to typical neuroleptics and decreased following exposure to atypical neuroleptics.