Cortical abnormalities in youth at clinical high-risk for psychosis: Findings from the NAPLS2 cohort

Neuroimage Clin. 2019:23:101862. doi: 10.1016/j.nicl.2019.101862. Epub 2019 May 23.


In a recent machine learning study classifying "brain age" based on cross-sectional neuroanatomical data, clinical high-risk (CHR) individuals were observed to show deviation from the normal neuromaturational pattern, which in turn was predictive of greater risk of conversion to psychosis and a pattern of stably poor functional outcome. These effects were unique to cases who were between 12 and 17 years of age when their prodromal and psychotic symptoms began, suggesting that neuroanatomical deviance observable at the point of ascertainment of a CHR syndrome marks risk for an early onset form of psychosis. In the present study, we sought to clarify the pattern of neuroanatomical deviance linked to this "early onset" form of psychosis and whether this deviance is associated with poorer premorbid functioning. T1 MRI scans from 378 CHR individuals and 190 healthy controls (HC) from the North American Prodrome Longitudinal Study (NAPLS2) were analyzed. Widespread smaller cortical volume was observed among CHR individuals compared with HC at baseline evaluation, particularly among the younger group (i.e., those who were 12 to 17 years of age). Moreover, the younger CHR individuals who converted or presented worsened clinical symptoms at follow-up (within 2 years) exhibited smaller surface area in rostral anterior cingulate, lateral and medial prefrontal regions, and parahippocampal gyrus relative to the younger CHR individuals who remitted or presented a stable pattern of prodromal symptoms at follow-up. In turn, poorer premorbid functioning in childhood was associated with smaller surface area in medial orbitofrontal, lateral frontal, rostral anterior cingulate, precuneus, and temporal regions. Together with our prior report, these results are consistent with the view that neuroanatomical deviance manifesting in early adolescence marks vulnerability to a form of psychosis presenting with poor premorbid adjustment, an earlier age of onset (generally prior to the age of 18 years), and poor long-term outcome.

Keywords: Brain development; Clinical high risk; Magnetic resonance imaging; Premorbid functioning; Psychosis; Schizophrenia.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Cerebral Cortex / diagnostic imaging*
  • Cerebral Cortex / pathology*
  • Child
  • Cohort Studies
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Prodromal Symptoms*
  • Psychotic Disorders / diagnostic imaging*
  • Psychotic Disorders / pathology*
  • Risk Factors