Metabolite Alterations in Adults With Schizophrenia, First Degree Relatives, and Healthy Controls: A Multi-Region 7T MRS Study

S. Andrea Wijtenburg, Min Wang, Stephanie A. Korenic, Shuo Chen, Peter B. Barker, Laura M. Rowland

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Proton magnetic resonance spectroscopy (MRS) studies in schizophrenia have shown altered GABAergic, glutamatergic, and bioenergetic pathways, but if these abnormalities are brain region or illness-stage specific is largely unknown. MRS at 7T MR enables reliable quantification of multiple metabolites, including GABA, glutamate (Glu) and glutamine (Gln), from multiple brain regions within the time constraints of a clinical examination. In this study, GABA, Glu, Gln, the ratio Gln/Glu, and lactate (Lac) were quantified using 7T MRS in five brain regions in adults with schizophrenia (N = 40), first-degree relatives (N = 11), and healthy controls (N = 38). Metabolites were analyzed for differences between groups, as well as between subjects with schizophrenia with either short (<5 years, N = 19 or long (>5 years, N = 21) illness duration. For analyses between the three groups, there were significant glutamatergic and GABAergic differences observed in the anterior cingulate, centrum semiovale, and dorsolateral prefrontal cortex. There were also significant relationships between anterior cingulate cortex, centrum semiovale, and dorsolateral prefrontal cortex and cognitive measures. There were also significant glutamatergic, GABAergic, and lactate differences between subjects with long and short illness duration in the anterior cingulate, centrum semiovale, dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, and hippocampus. Finally, negative symptom severity ratings were significantly correlated with both anterior cingulate and centrum semiovale metabolite levels. In summary, 7T MRS shows multi-region differences in GABAergic and glutamatergic metabolites between subjects with schizophrenia, first-degree relatives and healthy controls, suggesting relatively diffuse involvement that evolves with illness duration. Unmedicated first-degree relatives share some of the same metabolic characteristics as patients with a diagnosis of schizophrenia, suggesting that these differences may reflect a genetic vulnerability and are not solely due to the effects of antipsychotic interventions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number656459
JournalFrontiers in Psychiatry
StatePublished - May 19 2021


  • 7T MRS
  • GABA
  • brain
  • first degree relatives
  • glutamate
  • glutamine
  • metabolism
  • schizophrenia

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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