Objectives: Several MRI studies have investigated the anterior cingulate in schizophrenia, as this is a key region for emotional processing and higher executive performances. A systematic review of structural MRI studies and a meta-analysis were conducted to explore whether anterior cingulate volumes are abnormal in patients with schizophrenia.
Method: A systematic search strategy was used to identify eligible MRI studies. Thereafter, a meta-analysis was carried out by using a random effect model. Also, a meta-regression analysis was used to assess the influence of age, gender and slice thickness on effect sizes.
Results: The meta-analysis was performed on seven studies. These results showed that the anterior cingulate volumes were significantly reduced in patients compared to healthy controls. Significant heterogeneity between these studies was observed. The meta-regression demonstrated that the effect size was significantly related only to slice thickness.
Conclusions: Our work confirmed the presence of abnormally reduced anterior cingulate volumes in schizophrenia. However, several methodological issues limited the interpretation of these findings. Among these were different MR acquisition parameters and the small size of the sample, which was mostly composed of chronic patients. Future MRI studies should be planned to better understand the functional expression of anterior cingulate structural abnormalities.