White-matter free-water diffusion MRI in schizophrenia: a systematic review and meta-analysis

Ines Carreira Figueiredo*, Faith Borgan, Ofer Pasternak, Federico Turkheimer, Oliver Howes

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

22 Citations (Scopus)
34 Downloads (Pure)

Abstract

White-matter abnormalities, including increases in extracellular free-water, are implicated in the pathophysiology of schizophrenia. Recent advances in diffusion magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) enable free-water levels to be indexed. However, the brain levels in patients with schizophrenia have not yet been systematically investigated. We aimed to meta-analyse white-matter free-water levels in patients with schizophrenia compared to healthy volunteers. We performed a literature search in EMBASE, MEDLINE, and PsycINFO databases. Diffusion MRI studies reporting free-water in patients with schizophrenia compared to healthy controls were included. We investigated the effect of demographic variables, illness duration, chlorpromazine equivalents of antipsychotic medication, type of scanner, and clinical symptoms severity on free-water measures. Ten studies, including five of first episode of psychosis have investigated free-water levels in schizophrenia, with significantly higher levels reported in whole-brain and specific brain regions (including corona radiata, internal capsule, superior and inferior longitudinal fasciculus, cingulum bundle, and corpus callosum). Six studies, including a total of 614 participants met the inclusion criteria for quantitative analysis. Whole-brain free-water levels were significantly higher in patients relative to healthy volunteers (Hedge’s g = 0.38, 95% confidence interval (CI) 0.07–0.69, p = 0.02). Sex moderated this effect, such that smaller effects were seen in samples with more females (z = −2.54, p < 0.05), but antipsychotic dose, illness duration and symptom severity did not. Patients with schizophrenia have increased free-water compared to healthy volunteers. Future studies are necessary to determine the pathological sources of increased free-water, and its relationship with illness duration and severity.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1413-1420
Number of pages8
JournalNeuropsychopharmacology : official publication of the American College of Neuropsychopharmacology
Volume47
Issue number7
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2022

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