Metabolic dysfunction and microvascular abnormality may contribute to the pathogenesis of schizophrenia. Most previous studies of cerebral perfusion in schizophrenia measured total cerebral blood volume (CBV) and cerebral blood flow (CBF) in the brain, which reflect the ensemble signal from the arteriolar, capillary, and venular compartments of the microvasculature. As the arterioles are the most actively regulated blood vessels among these compartments, they may be the most sensitive component of the microvasculature to metabolic disturbances. In this study, we adopted the inflow-based vascular-space-occupancy (iVASO) MRI approach to investigate alterations in the volume of small arterial (pial) and arteriolar vessels (arteriolar cerebral blood volume [CBVa]) in the brain of schizophrenia patients. The iVASO approach was extended to 3-dimensional (3D) whole brain coverage, and CBVa was measured in the brains of 12 schizophrenia patients and 12 matched controls at ultra-high magnetic field (7T). Significant reduction in grey matter (GM) CBVa was found in multiple areas across the whole brain in patients (relative changes of 14%-51% and effect sizes of 0.7-2.3). GM CBVa values in several regions in the temporal cortex showed significant negative correlations with disease duration in patients. GM CBVa increase was also found in a few brain regions. Our results imply that microvascular abnormality may play a role in schizophrenia, and suggest GM CBVa as a potential marker for the disease. Further investigation is needed to elucidate whether such effects are due to primary vascular impairment or secondary to other causes, such as metabolic dysfunction.
Keywords: biomarker; high field; imaging; perfusion; psychosis; vascular.
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