Background: The entorhinal cortex is located in the medial temporal lobe and is involved in memory and learning. Previous MRI studies reported conflicting findings in schizophrenia, showing normal or reduced entorhinal size.
Objectives: To explore entorhinal cortex volumes in a large sample of patients with schizophrenia recruited from the geographically defined catchment area of South Verona (i.e. 100,000 inhabitants). We also investigated the size of hippocampus as part of the medial temporal lobe.
Methods: 70 patients with schizophrenia and 77 normal controls underwent a session of MRI (TR=2060 ms, TE=3.9 ms, slice thickness=1.25 mm). Entorhinal and hippocampal volumes were explored using the Brains2 software.
Results: A significant group effect was found for total entorhinal cortex but not for hippocampus, with patients suffering from schizophrenia having smaller entorhinal volumes compared to normal subjects (F=6.24, p=0.01), particularly on the right side (F=9.76, p=0.002). Also, the laterality index for entorhinal cortex was higher in normal individuals than in patients with schizophrenia (F=5.45, p=0.02).
Conclusions: Consistent with some of the previous reports, our study confirmed the presence of abnormally decreased entorhinal volumes, particularly on the right side, in a large number of patients with schizophrenia and also found altered asymmetry. This may play a major role in the psychopathology and cognitive disturbances of the disease. Future longitudinal MRI studies including high-risk subjects and drug-free, first-episode patients are crucial to further understand whether entorhinal cortex shrinkage is already present at the onset of the illness or appears as a consequence of the illness.