Although structural brain alterations in schizophrenia have been demonstrated extensively, their quantitative distribution has not been studied over the last 14 years despite advances in neuroimaging. Moreover, a volumetric meta-analysis has not been conducted in antipsychotic-naive patients. Therefore, meta-analysis on cross-sectional volumetric brain alterations in both medicated and antipsychotic-naive patients was conducted. Three hundred seventeen studies published from September 1, 1998 to January 1, 2012 comprising over 9000 patients were selected for meta-analysis, including 33 studies in antipsychotic-naive patients. In addition to effect sizes, potential modifying factors such as duration of illness, sex composition, current antipsychotic dose, and intelligence quotient matching status of participants were extracted where available. In the sample of medicated schizophrenia patients (n = 8327), intracranial and total brain volume was significantly decreased by 2.0% (effect size d = -0.17) and 2.6% (d = -0.30), respectively. Largest effect sizes were observed for gray matter structures, with effect sizes ranging from -0.22 to -0.58. In the sample of antipsychotic-naive patients (n = 771), volume reductions in caudate nucleus (d = -0.38) and thalamus (d = -0.68) were more pronounced than in medicated patients. White matter volume was decreased to a similar extent in both groups, while gray matter loss was less extensive in antipsychotic-naive patients. Gray matter reduction was associated with longer duration of illness and higher dose of antipsychotic medication at time of scanning. Therefore, brain loss in schizophrenia is related to a combination of (early) neurodevelopmental processes-reflected in intracranial volume reduction-as well as illness progression.
Keywords: antipsychotic medication; brain volumes; magnetic resonance imaging; meta-analysis; schizophrenia.