Neuroanatomical abnormalities in first-episode psychosis (FEP) tend to be subtle and widespread. The vast majority of previous studies have used small samples, and therefore may have been underpowered. In addition, most studies have examined participants at a single research site, and therefore the results may be specific to the local sample investigated. Consequently, the findings reported in the existing literature are highly heterogeneous. This study aimed to overcome these issues by testing for neuroanatomical abnormalities in individuals with FEP that are expressed consistently across several independent samples.
Structural Magnetic Resonance Imaging data were acquired from a total of 572 FEP and 502 age and gender comparable healthy controls at five sites. Voxel-based morphometry was used to investigate differences in grey matter volume (GMV) between the two groups. Statistical inferences were made at p < 0.05 after family-wise error correction for multiple comparisons.
FEP showed a widespread pattern of decreased GMV in fronto-temporal, insular and occipital regions bilaterally; these decreases were not dependent on anti-psychotic medication. The region with the most pronounced decrease – gyrus rectus – was negatively correlated with the severity of positive and negative symptoms.
This study identified a consistent pattern of fronto-temporal, insular and occipital abnormalities in five independent FEP samples; furthermore, the extent of these alterations is dependent on the severity of symptoms and duration of illness. This provides evidence for reliable neuroanatomical alternations in FEP, expressed above and beyond site-related differences in anti-psychotic medication, scanning parameters and recruitment criteria.