Context: Because schizophrenia and related disorders have a chronic time course and subtle histopathology, it is difficult to identify which brain regions are differentially targeted.
Objective: To identify brain sites differentially targeted by schizophrenia, we applied a high-resolution variant of functional magnetic resonance imaging to clinically characterized patients and matched healthy controls and to a cohort of prodromal subjects who were prospectively followed up. Additionally, to explore the potential confound of medication use, the fMRI variant was applied to rodents receiving an antipsychotic agent.
Design: Cross-sectional and prospective cohort designs.
Setting: Hospital clinic and magnetic resonance imaging laboratory.
Participants: Eighteen patients with schizophrenia, 18 controls comparable in age and sex, and 18 prodromal patients followed up prospectively for 2 years. Ten C57-B mice received an antipsychotic agent or vehicle control.
Main outcome measures: Regional cerebral blood volume (CBV), as measured with magnetic resonance imaging, and symptom severity, as measured with clinical rating scales.
Results: In a first between-group analysis that compared patients with schizophrenia with controls, results revealed abnormal CBV increases in the CA1 subfield and the orbitofrontal cortex and abnormal CBV decreases in the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex. In a second longitudinal analysis, baseline CBV abnormalities in the CA1 subfield differentially predicted clinical progression to psychosis from a prodromal state. In a third correlational analysis, CBV levels in the CA1 subfield differentially correlated with clinical symptoms of psychosis. Finally, additional analyses of the human data set and imaging studies in mice suggested that antipsychotic agents were not confounding the primary findings.
Conclusions: Taken as a whole, the results suggest that the CA1 subfield of the hippocampal subregion is differentially targeted by schizophrenia and related psychotic disorders. Interpreted in the context of previous studies, these findings inform underlying mechanisms of illness progression.