Associations Between Structural Covariance Network and Antipsychotic Treatment Response in Schizophrenia

Schizophr Bull. 2023 Nov 18:sbad160. doi: 10.1093/schbul/sbad160. Online ahead of print.


Background and hypothesis: Schizophrenia is associated with widespread cortical thinning and abnormality in the structural covariance network, which may reflect connectome alterations due to treatment effect or disease progression. Notably, patients with treatment-resistant schizophrenia (TRS) have stronger and more widespread cortical thinning, but it remains unclear whether structural covariance is associated with treatment response in schizophrenia.

Study design: We organized a multicenter magnetic resonance imaging study to assess structural covariance in a large population of TRS and non-TRS, who had been resistant and responsive to non-clozapine antipsychotics, respectively. Whole-brain structural covariance for cortical thickness was assessed in 102 patients with TRS, 77 patients with non-TRS, and 79 healthy controls (HC). Network-based statistics were used to examine the difference in structural covariance networks among the 3 groups. Moreover, the relationship between altered individual differentiated structural covariance and clinico-demographics was also explored.

Study results: Patients with non-TRS exhibited greater structural covariance compared with HC, mainly in the fronto-temporal and fronto-occipital regions, while there were no significant differences in structural covariance between TRS and non-TRS or HC. Higher individual differentiated structural covariance was associated with lower general scores of the Positive and Negative Syndrome Scale in the non-TRS group, but not in the TRS group.

Conclusions: These findings suggest that reconfiguration of brain networks via coordinated cortical thinning is related to treatment response in schizophrenia. Further longitudinal studies are warranted to confirm if greater structural covariance could serve as a marker for treatment response in this disease.

Keywords: cortical thickness; individual differential structural covariance network; magnetic resonance imaging; multicenter; structural covariance; treatment-resistant schizophrenia.