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White matter integrity as a predictor of response to treatment in first episode psychosis

Tiago Reis Marques, Heather Taylor, Chris Chaddock, Flavio Dell’Acqua, Rowena Handley, A. A. T. Simone Reinders, Valeria Mondelli, Stefania Bonaccorso, Marta DiForti, Andrew Simmons, Anthony S. David, Robin M. Murray, Carmine M. Pariante, Shitij Kapur, Paola Dazzan
DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/brain/awt310 172-182 First published online: 19 November 2013


The integrity of brain white matter connections is central to a patient’s ability to respond to pharmacological interventions. This study tested this hypothesis using a specific measure of white matter integrity, and examining its relationship to treatment response using a prospective design in patients within their first episode of psychosis. Diffusion tensor imaging data were acquired in 63 patients with first episode psychosis and 52 healthy control subjects (baseline). Response was assessed after 12 weeks and patients were classified as responders or non-responders according to treatment outcome. At this second time-point, they also underwent a second diffusion tensor imaging scan. Tract-based spatial statistics were used to assess fractional anisotropy as a marker of white matter integrity. At baseline, non-responders showed lower fractional anisotropy than both responders and healthy control subjects (P < 0.05; family-wise error-corrected), mainly in the uncinate, cingulum and corpus callosum, whereas responders were indistinguishable from healthy control subjects. After 12 weeks, there was an increase in fractional anisotropy in both responders and non-responders, positively correlated with antipsychotic exposure. This represents one of the largest, controlled investigations of white matter integrity and response to antipsychotic treatment early in psychosis. These data, together with earlier findings on cortical grey matter, suggest that grey and white matter integrity at the start of treatment is an important moderator of response to antipsychotics. These findings can inform patient stratification to anticipate care needs, and raise the possibility that antipsychotics may restore white matter integrity as part of the therapeutic response.

  • antipsychotic drugs
  • psychosis
  • diffusion tensor imaging
  • white matter
  • schizophrenia
  • Abbreviation
    Positive and Negative Syndrome Scale
  • This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/), which permits unrestricted reuse, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

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