Abnormal white matter microstructure in drug-naive first episode schizophrenia patients before and after eight weeks of antipsychotic treatment

UMMS Affiliation

Department of Psychiatry, Psychotic Disorders Program

Publication Date


Document Type



Mental and Social Health | Neuroscience and Neurobiology | Psychiatry | Psychiatry and Psychology


BACKGROUND: Abnormal white matter integrity has been reported among first episode schizophrenia patients. However, findings on whether it can be reversed by short-term antipsychotic medications are inconsistent.

METHOD: Diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) was obtained from 55 drug-naive first episode schizophrenia patients and 61 healthy controls, and was repeated among 25 patients and 31 controls after 8 weeks during which patients were medicated with antipsychotics. White matter integrity is measured using fractional anisotropy (FA), mean diffusivity (MD), axial diffusivity (AD) and radial diffusivity (RD). These measures showing a group difference by Tract-based spatial statistics (TBSS) at baseline were extracted for longitudinal comparisons.

RESULTS: At baseline, patients exhibited lower FA, higher MD and higher RD versus controls in forceps, left superior longitudinal fasciculus, inferior fronto-occipital fasciculus, left corticospinal tract, left uncinate fasciculus, left anterior thalamic radiation, and bilateral inferior longitudinal fasciculi. FA values of schizophrenia patients correlated with their negative symptoms (r=-0.412, P=0.002), working memory (r=0.377, P=0.005) and visual learning (r=0.281, P=0.038). The longitudinal changes in DTI indices in these tracts did not differ between patients and controls. However, among the patients the longitudinal changes in FA values in left superior longitudinal fasciculus correlated with the change of positive symptoms (r=-0.560, p=0.004), and the change of processing speed (r=0.469, p=0.018).

CONCLUSIONS: White matter deficits were validated in the present study by a relatively large sample of medication naive and first episode schizophrenia patients. They could be associated with negative symptoms and cognitive impairment, whereas improvement in white matter integrity of left superior longitudinal fasciculus correlated with improvement in psychosis and processing speed. Further examination of treatment-related changes in white matter integrity may provide clues to the mechanism of antipsychotic response and provide a biomarker for clinical studies.


Cognition, Diffusion tensor imaging, Longitudinal observation, Medication naïve, Schizophrenia

DOI of Published Version



Schizophr Res. 2016 Apr;172(1-3):1-8. Epub 2016 Feb 3. Link to article on publisher's site

Journal/Book/Conference Title

Schizophrenia research

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Link to Article in PubMed

PubMed ID