Antipsychotic Effects on Cortical Morphology in Schizophrenia and Bipolar Disorders

Ruiqi Feng, Fay Y. Womer, E. Kale Edmiston, Yifan Chen, Yinshan Wang, Miao Chang, Zhiyang Yin, Yange Wei, Jia Duan, Sihua Ren, Chao Li, Zhuang Liu, Xiaowei Jiang, Shengnan Wei, Songbai Li, Xizhe Zhang, Xi Nian Zuo, Yanqing Tang, Fei Wang

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Background: Previous studies of atypical antipsychotic effects on cortical structures in schizophrenia (SZ) and bipolar disorder (BD) have findings that vary between the short and long term. In particular, there has not been a study exploring the effects of atypical antipsychotics on age-related cortical structural changes in SZ and BD. This study aimed to determine whether mid- to long-term atypical antipsychotic treatment (mean duration = 20 months) is associated with cortical structural changes and whether age-related cortical structural changes are affected by atypical antipsychotics. Methods: Structural magnetic resonance imaging images were obtained from 445 participants consisting of 88 medicated patients (67 with SZ, 21 with BD), 84 unmedicated patients (50 with SZ, 34 with BD), and 273 healthy controls (HC). Surface-based analyses were employed to detect differences in thickness and area among the three groups. We examined the age-related effects of atypical antipsychotics after excluding the potential effects of illness duration. Results: Significant differences in cortical thickness were observed in the frontal, temporal, parietal, and insular areas and the isthmus of the cingulate gyrus. The medicated group showed greater cortical thinning in these regions than the unmediated group and HC; furthermore, there were age-related differences in the effects of atypical antipsychotics, and these effects did not relate to illness duration. Moreover, cortical thinning was significantly correlated with lower symptom scores and Wisconsin Card Sorting Test (WCST) deficits in patients. After false discovery rate correction, cortical thinning in the right middle temporal gyrus in patients was significantly positively correlated with lower HAMD scores. The unmedicated group showed only greater frontotemporal thickness than the HC group. Conclusion: Mid- to long-term atypical antipsychotic use may adversely affect cortical thickness over the course of treatment and ageing and may also result in worsening cognitive function.

Original languageEnglish
Article number579139
JournalFrontiers in Neuroscience
StatePublished - Dec 10 2020


  • atypical antipsychotics
  • bipolar disorder
  • cortical thickness
  • magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)
  • schizophrenia


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