Grey matter (GM) abnormalities are robust features of schizophrenia and of people at ultra high-risk for psychosis. However the extent to which neuroanatomical alterations are evident in non-clinical subjects with isolated psychotic experiences is less clear.
Individuals (mean age 20 years) with (n = 123) or without (n = 125) psychotic experiences (PEs) were identified from a population-based cohort. All underwent T1-weighted structural, diffusion and quantitative T1 relaxometry MRI, to characterise GM macrostructure, microstructure and myelination respectively. Differences in quantitative GM structure were assessed using voxel-based morphometry (VBM). Binary and ordinal models of PEs were tested. Correlations between socioeconomic and other risk factors for psychosis with cortical GM measures were also computed.
GM volume in the left supra-marginal gyrus was reduced in individuals with PEs relative to those with no PEs. The greater the severity of PEs, the greater the reduction in T1 relaxation rate (R1) across left temporoparietal and right pre-frontal cortices. In these regions, R1 was positively correlated with maternal education and inversely correlated with general psychopathology.
PEs in non-clinical subjects were associated with regional reductions in grey-matter volume reduction and T1 relaxation rate. The alterations in T1 relaxation rate were also linked to the level of general psychopathology. Follow up of these subjects should clarify whether these alterations predict the later development of an ultra high-risk state or a psychotic disorder.