Progressive brain changes in schizophrenia related to antipsychotic treatment? A meta-analysis of longitudinal MRI studies

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Abstract

Context:

Antipsychotic treatment is the first-line treatment option for schizophrenia. Individual studies suggested they can significantly affect brain structure and account for progressive brain changes observed during the illness.

Objectives:

To quantitatively examine the effect of antipsychotics as compared to illness related factors on progressive brain changes in schizophrenia.

Data sources:

Electronic databases were searched until April 2012. All magnetic resonance imaging studies reporting progressive brain changes in schizophrenia subjects and antipsychotic exposure were retrieved.

Study selection:

30 longitudinal MRI studies with antipsychotic administration in schizophrenia patients met the inclusion criteria.

Data extraction:

Brain volumes before and after antipsychotic exposure, duration of illness, severity of psychotic symptoms as well as demographic, clinical, and methodological variables were extracted from each publication, or obtained directly from its authors.

Data synthesis:

The overall sample was of 1046 schizophrenia patients and 780 controls for a median duration of follow-up of 72.4 weeks. At baseline, patients showed significant whole brain volume reductions and enlarged lateral ventricle (LV) volumes compared to controls. No baseline volumetric abnormalities were detected in the gray matter volumes (GMV), white matter volumes, cerebrospinal fluid and caudate nucleus. Longitudinally, there were progressive GMV decreases and LV enlargements in patients but not in controls. The GMV decreases were inversely correlated with cumulative exposure to antipsychotic treatments, while no effects were observed for duration of illness or illness severity.

Conclusions:

Schizophrenia is characterized by progressive gray matter volume decreases and lateral ventricular volume increases. Some of these neuroanatomical alterations may be associated with antipsychotic treatment.

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