Background: Several demographic and phenomenological variables have been identified as predictors of outcome in schizophrenia. Far fewer studies have examined the relationships between brain morphology assessed at illness onset and subsequent outcome, and their results have been contradictory.
Methods: The relationships between magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) regional brain volumes at illness onset and outcome five years later were studied in 123 schizophrenia patients using regression and correlation analysis. Outcome measures included psychosocial functioning, weeks per year receiving inpatient treatment, and persistence of severe psychotic, disorganized and negative symptoms.
Results: Temporal lobe tissue volume at onset was predictive of outcome. Smaller temporal lobe gray matter volume (both left and right) was associated with persistence of hallucinations during follow-up. There were no significant associations between hallucinations and temporal white matter, or between delusions and temporal white or gray matter volumes. None of the other volumetric brain measures were predictive of outcome.
Conclusions: The association between initial temporal lobe gray matter volume and subsequent persistent hallucinations may help identify individuals who are at higher risk for poor outcome and help guide their treatment planning. However, regional brain volumes assessed near illness onset, in general, do not appear to be indicative of subsequent outcome in schizophrenia.