Air pollution and hippocampal atrophy in first episode schizophrenia

UMMS Affiliation

Department of Psychiatry

Publication Date


Document Type



Environmental Public Health | Mental and Social Health | Nervous System | Nervous System Diseases | Neuroscience and Neurobiology | Psychiatry | Psychiatry and Psychology | Therapeutics


Air pollution has recently been linked to central nervous system (CNS) diseases, possibly mediated by inflammation and oxidative stress. Hippocampal atrophy in individuals with first episode schizophrenia (FES) has also been associated with biomarkers of inflammation and oxidative stress, whereas hippocampal atrophy was not observed in matched healthy controls with similar biomarker levels of inflammation and oxidative stress. Fine particulate matter (PM2.5), one component of air pollution, is most strongly implicated in CNS disease. The present study examined the association between PM2.5 and hippocampal volume in individuals with FES who participated in a 52-week placebo-controlled clinical trial of citalopram added to clinician-determined antipsychotic treatment at four sites in the US and China. Left hippocampal volumetric integrity (LHVI; inversely related to atrophy) was measured at baseline and week 52 using an automated highly-reliable algorithm. Mean annual PM2.5 concentrations were obtained from records compiled by the World Health Organization. The relationships between baseline LHVI and PM2.5 and change in LHVI and PM2.5 were evaluated using regression analyses. 89 participants completed imaging at baseline and 46 participants completed imaging at week 52. Mean annual PM2.5 was significantly associated with both baseline LHVI and change in LHVI after controlling for age, sex, baseline LHVI, duration of untreated psychosis and baseline antipsychotic medication dose. Air pollution may contribute to the progression of hippocampal atrophy after a first episode of illness, but these findings should be considered preliminary since other unmeasured factors may have differed between cities and contributed to the observed effect.


Air pollution, Early psychosis, Hippocampal volume, Inflammation, Oxidative stress, Schizophrenia

DOI of Published Version



Worthington MA, Petkova E, Freudenreich O, Cather C, Holt D, Bello I, Diminich E, Tang Y, Ardekani BA, Zeng B, Wu R, Fan X, Zhao J, Wang J, Goff DC. Air pollution and hippocampal atrophy in first episode schizophrenia. Schizophr Res. 2020 Mar 10:S0920-9964(20)30104-3. doi: 10.1016/j.schres.2020.03.001. Epub ahead of print. PMID: 32169403. Link to article on publisher's site

Journal/Book/Conference Title

Schizophrenia research

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PubMed ID