Proton Magnetic Resonance Spectroscopy of N-acetyl Aspartate in Chronic Schizophrenia, First Episode of Psychosis and High-Risk of Psychosis: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis

Thomas Samuel Whitehurst, Martin Osugo, Leigh Townsend, Ekaterina Shatalina, Robert Vava, Ellis Chika Onwordi, Oliver Howes
Neuroscience and Biobehavioral Reviews 2020 October 14
N-acetyl-aspartate (NAA) is a readily measured marker of neuronal metabolism. Previous analyses in schizophrenia have shown NAA levels are low in frontal, temporal and thalamic regions, but may be underpowered to detect effects in some regions, high-risk of psychosis and between illness stages. We searched for magnetic resonance spectroscopy studies comparing NAA in chronic schizophrenia, first episode psychosis and high risk of psychosis to controls. 182 studies were included and meta-analysed using a random-effects model for each region and illness stage. NAA levels were significantly lower than controls in the frontal lobe [Hedge's g = -0.36, p < 0.001], hippocampus [-0.52, p < 0.001], temporal lobe [-0.35, p = 0.031], thalamus [-0.32, p = 0.012] and parietal lobe [-0.25, p = 0.028] in chronic schizophrenia, and lower than controls in the frontal lobe [-0.26, p = 0.002], anterior cingulate cortex [-0.24, p = 0.016] and thalamus [-0.28, p = 0.028] in first episode psychosis. NAA was lower in high-risk for psychosis in the hippocampus [-0.20, p = 0.049]. In schizophrenia, NAA alterations appear to begin in hippocampus, frontal cortex and thalamus, and extend later to many other regions.

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