Delusional infestation: neural correlates and antipsychotic therapy investigated by multimodal neuroimaging

Roland W Freudenmann, Markus Kölle, Axel Huwe, Markus Luster, Sven Norbert Reske, Markus Huber, Peter Lepping, R Christian Wolf, Carlos Schönfeldt-Lecuona
Progress in Neuro-psychopharmacology & Biological Psychiatry 2010 October 1, 34 (7): 1215-22

INTRODUCTION: In delusional infestation (DI), as with other non-schizophrenic psychotic disorders, little is known about the neural basis and the mechanisms of antipsychotic treatment. We aimed at investigating the brain circuitry involved in DI and the role of postsynaptic D2 receptors in mediating the effects of antipsychotics by means of multimodal neuroimaging.

METHODS: In Case 1, a patient with DI (initially drug-induced), cerebral glucose metabolism and dopaminergic neurotransmission were studied in the untreated state (FDG-PET, FDOPA-PET, 123I-FP-CIT-SPECT, and IBZM-SPECT) and after effective aripiprazole treatment (FDG-PET and IBZM-SPECT), with negative drug screenings at both imaging sessions. In Case 2 (DI secondary to mild vascular encephalopathy) cerebral perfusion and gray matter volume changes were investigated in the untreated state and compared to N=8 [corrected] age-matched healthy controls (MRI-based CASL and VBM).

RESULTS: In Case 1, before treatment, glucose metabolism was left-dominant in the thalamus and the putamen. Pre- and postsynaptic dopaminergic neurotransmissions were altered in the striatum, again mainly the left putamen. Full remission to aripiprazole was associated with 63 to 78% striatal D2 receptor occupancy and glucose metabolism changes in the bilateral thalamus. In Case 2, significant perfusion and GMV changes were observed in the bilateral putamen, frontal and parietal somatosensory cortices as compared to controls. Symptoms partially remitted to ziprasidone therapy.

DISCUSSION/CONCLUSION: Six imaging techniques were first used to study the neural basis of DI and mechanisms of antipsychotic therapy. The study provides first low-level evidence in vivo evidence of fronto-striato-thalamo-parietal network to mediate core symptoms of DI, i.e. a priori brain regions involved in judgment (frontal cortex), sensory gating (thalamus) and body perception (dorsal striatum, thalamus and somatic cortices). This is also the first report of effective treatment with aripiprazole in drug-induced DI and with ziprasidone in organic DI, adding to existing limited evidence that SGAs are helpful in various forms of DI. Effective antipsychotic treatment seems to depend on blocking striatal D2 receptors with similar occupancy rates as in schizophrenia. Larger samples are needed to confirm our preliminary findings and further evaluate their relevance for the different forms of DI.

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