There is growing evidence that psychosis is characterized by brain network abnormalities. Analyzing morphological abnormalities with T1-weighted structural MRI may be limited in discovering the extent of deviations in cortical associations. We assess whether structural associations of either cortical white-gray contrast (WGC) or cortical thickness (CT) allow for a better understanding of brain structural relationships in first episode of psychosis (FEP) patients. Principal component and structural covariance analyses were applied to WGC and CT derived from T1-weighted MRI for 116 patients and 88 controls, to explore sets of brain regions that showed group differences, and associations with symptom severity and cognitive ability in patients. We focused on 2 principal components: one encompassed primary somatomotor regions, which showed trend-like group differences in WGC, and the second included heteromodal cortices. Patients' component scores were related to general psychopathology for WGC, but not CT. Structural covariance analyses with WGC revealed group differences in pairwise correlations across widespread brain regions, mirroring areas derived from PCA. More group differences were uncovered with WGC compared with CT. WGC holds potential as a proxy measure of myelin from commonly acquired T1-weighted MRI and may be sensitive in detecting systems-level aberrations in early psychosis, and relationships with clinical/cognitive profiles.
Keywords: early psychosis; psychopathology; structural MRI; structural covariance; white–gray matter contrast.
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