Neuroimaging findings in the at-risk mental state: a review of recent literature

Can J Psychiatry. 2013 Jan;58(1):13-8. doi: 10.1177/070674371305800104.


The at-risk mental state (ARMS) has been the subject of much interest during the past 15 years. A great deal of effort has been expended to identify neuroimaging markers that can inform our understanding of the risk state and to help predict who will transition to frank psychotic illness. Recently, there has been an explosion of neuroimaging literature from people with an ARMS, which has meant that reviews and meta-analyses lack currency. Here we review papers published in the past 2 years, and contrast their findings with previous reports. While it is clear that people in the ARMS do show brain alterations when compared with healthy control subjects, there is an overall lack of consistency as to which of these alterations predict the development of psychosis. This problem arises because of variations in methodology (in patient recruitment, region of interest, method of analysis, and functional task employed), but there has also been too little effort put into replicating previous research. Nonetheless, there are areas of promise, notably that activation of the stress system and increased striatal dopamine synthesis seem to mark out patients in the ARMS most at risk for later transition. Future studies should focus on these areas, and on network-level analysis, incorporating graph theoretical approaches and intrinsic connectivity networks.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Brain / pathology
  • Brain / physiopathology*
  • Energy Metabolism / physiology
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging*
  • Magnetic Resonance Spectroscopy*
  • Mass Screening
  • Positron-Emission Tomography*
  • Psychotic Disorders / diagnosis*
  • Psychotic Disorders / physiopathology
  • Psychotic Disorders / psychology
  • Risk Factors
  • Schizophrenia / diagnosis*
  • Schizophrenia / genetics
  • Schizophrenia / physiopathology
  • Schizophrenic Psychology*
  • Schizotypal Personality Disorder / diagnosis*
  • Schizotypal Personality Disorder / genetics
  • Schizotypal Personality Disorder / physiopathology
  • Schizotypal Personality Disorder / psychology