Background: Pineal volume reductions have been reported in schizophrenia and clinical high-risk states for the development of psychosis, supporting the role of melatonin dysregulation in the pathophysiology of psychosis. However, it remains unclear whether pineal volume is associated with the later onset of psychosis in individuals at clinical high-risk (CHR) of psychosis or if pineal atrophy is specific to schizophrenia among different psychotic disorders.
Methods: This magnetic resonance imaging study examined the volume of and cyst prevalence in the pineal gland in 135 individuals at CHR of psychosis [52 (38.5%) subsequently developed psychosis], 162 with first-episode psychosis (FEP), 89 with chronic schizophrenia, and 87 healthy controls. The potential contribution of the pineal morphology to clinical characteristics was also examined in the CHR and FEP groups.
Results: Pineal volumes did not differ significantly between the CHR, FEP, and chronic schizophrenia groups, but were significantly smaller than that in healthy controls. However, pineal volumes were not associated with the later onset of psychosis in the CHR group or FEP sub-diagnosis (i.e., schizophrenia, schizophreniform disorder, affective psychosis, and other psychoses). No significant differences were observed in the prevalence of pineal cysts between the groups, and it also did not correlate with clinical characteristics in the CHR and FEP groups.
Conclusion: These results suggest that pineal atrophy is a general vulnerability marker of psychosis, while pineal cysts do not appear to contribute to the pathophysiology of psychosis.
Keywords: Clinical high-risk; Magnetic resonance imaging; Pineal gland; Psychosis; Schizophrenia.
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