Longitudinal changes in brain metabolites in healthy controls and patients with first episode psychosis: a 7-Tesla MRS study

Mol Psychiatry. 2023 Feb 2. doi: 10.1038/s41380-023-01969-5. Online ahead of print.


Seven Tesla magnetic resonance spectroscopy (7T MRS) offers a precise measurement of metabolic levels in the human brain via a non-invasive approach. Studying longitudinal changes in brain metabolites could help evaluate the characteristics of disease over time. This approach may also shed light on how the age of study participants and duration of illness may influence these metabolites. This study used 7T MRS to investigate longitudinal patterns of brain metabolites in young adulthood in both healthy controls and patients. A four-year longitudinal cohort with 38 patients with first episode psychosis (onset within 2 years) and 48 healthy controls was used to examine 10 brain metabolites in 5 brain regions associated with the pathophysiology of psychosis in a comprehensive manner. Both patients and controls were found to have significant longitudinal reductions in glutamate in the anterior cingulate cortex (ACC). Only patients were found to have a significant decrease over time in γ-aminobutyric acid, N-acetyl aspartate, myo-inositol, total choline, and total creatine in the ACC. Together we highlight the ACC with dynamic changes in several metabolites in early-stage psychosis, in contrast to the other 4 brain regions that also are known to play roles in psychosis. Meanwhile, glutathione was uniquely found to have a near zero annual percentage change in both patients and controls in all 5 brain regions during a four-year follow-up in young adulthood. Given that a reduction of the glutathione in the ACC has been reported as a feature of treatment-refractory psychosis, this observation further supports the potential of glutathione as a biomarker for this subset of patients with psychosis.