MRI Scans Show Brain Changes in Kids With Schizophrenia

Progressive loss of gray matter linked to worse prognosis for young patients, researchers say

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WEDNESDAY, Jan. 4 (HealthDay News) -- Children who are diagnosed with schizophrenia or a number of other psychoses go on to experience a progressively greater than normal loss of gray matter in the frontal lobe region of the brain, new research suggests.

These adolescents also experience an above-average spike in the amount of so-called "cerebrospinal fluid" found in the same location, according to a report published in the January issue of the Archives of General Psychiatry.

In turn, children who experience these brain developments appear to face an increased risk for longer hospitalization, more severe illness and a poorer overall prognosis, the authors of the study noted.

"We found progression of gray matter volume loss after a two-year follow-up in patients who ended up with a diagnosis of schizophrenia, but not bipolar disease, compared with healthy controls," Dr. Celso Arango, of the Hospital General Universitario Gregorio Maranon in Madrid, Spain, and colleagues said in a journal news release.

"Some of these pathophysiologic processes seem to be markers of poorer prognosis," the researchers added.

The findings stem from an analysis of brain changes detected using MRI scans taken over a two-year period among 61 patients who had been diagnosed with a range of different psychoses at one of six child and adolescent psychiatric facilities in Spain.

In all, brain changes among 25 children diagnosed with schizophrenia, 16 with bipolar disorder and 20 with a number of other psychoses were stacked up against the brain status of 70 healthy children.

The result: in addition to the principal findings, the team further observed that total brain gray matter (as well as gray matter in the left parietal region of the brain) were notably different among patients with schizophrenia compared with their healthy peers.

"To develop therapeutic strategies to counteract these pathologic progressive brain changes, future studies should focus on their neurobiological underpinnings," the study authors advised.

More information

For more on adolescent schizophrenia, visit the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry.

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