Date Published:1999 Jun 01
BACKGROUND: Structural MRI data indicate schizophrenics have reduced left-sided temporal lobe gray matter volumes, especially in the superior temporal gyrus (STG) and medial temporal lobe. Our data further suggest a specificity to schizophrenia spectrum disorders of STG volume reduction. Interpretation of research studies involving schizophrenics may be complicated by the effects of exposure to neuroleptics and chronic illness. Sharing the same genetic diathesis of schizophrenics, subjects with schizotypal personality disorder (SPD) offer a unique opportunity to evaluate commonalities between schizophrenia and SPD, particularly as SPD subjects are characterized by cognitive and perceptual distortions, an inability to tolerate close friendships, and odd behavior, but they are not psychotic and so have generally not been prescribed neuroleptics nor hospitalized. Evaluation of brain structure in SPD may thus offer insight into the "endophenotype" common to both disorders. In addition, differences between groups may suggest which are the brain structures of schizophrenics that contribute to the development of psychosis. METHODS: To test the hypothesis of whether SPD subjects might show similar STG abnormalities, STG and medial temporal lobe regions of interest (ROI) were manually drawn on high resolution coronal MRI 1.5 mm thick slices. Images were derived from 16 right-handed male SPD subjects, without regard to family history, and 14 healthy, right-handed, comparison males who did not differ from the SPD group on parental socio-economic status, age, or verbal IQ. RESULTS: As predicted, SPD subjects showed a reduction in left STG gray matter volume compared with age and gender matched comparison subjects. SPD subjects also showed reduced parahippocampal left/right asymmetry and a high degree of disordered thinking. Comparisons with chronic schizophrenics previously studied by us showed the SPD group had a similarity of left STG gray matter volume reduction, but fewer medial temporal lobe abnormalities. CONCLUSIONS: These abnormalities strengthen the hypothesis of a temporal lobe abnormality in SPD, and the similarity of STG findings in schizophrenia and SPD suggest that STG abnormalities may be part of the spectrum "endophenotype." It is also possible that presence of medial temporal lobe abnormalities may help to differentiate who will develop schizophrenia and who will develop the less severe schizophrenia spectrum disorder, SPD.