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Associations between N-Acetylaspartate and white matter integrity in individuals with schizophrenia and unaffected relatives

Publication year 2023
Published in Psychiatry Research - Neuroimaging
Authors Dominic Roberts, Lara Rosler, Jannie P Wijnen, Katharine N Thakkar

Compromised white matter has been reported in schizophrenia; however, few studies have investigated neurochemical abnormalities underlying microstructural differences. N-acetylaspartate (NAA) is used to synthesize myelin and is often reduced in persons with schizophrenia (PSZ) and their unaffected first-degree relatives (REL). Low levels of NAA could affect white matter by preventing the synthesis or repair of myelin. We used magnetic resonance spectroscopy and diffusion tensor imaging to investigate the relationship between NAA and white matter integrity in PSZ. REL were included to examine whether putative relationships are associated with symptom expression or illness liability. 52 controls, 23 REL and 25 PSZ underwent 7T proton magnetic resonance spectroscopy and/or 3T diffusion tensor imaging. NAA in the visual cortex and basal ganglia were measured and compared across groups. Diffusivity measures were compared across groups using tract-based spatial statistics and related to NAA concentrations. Visual cortex NAA was significantly reduced in PSZ compared to controls. White matter integrity did not differ between groups. Reduced cortical and subcortical NAA were associated with diffusivity measures of poor white matter microstructure. These data suggest that levels of neural NAA may be related to white matter integrity similarly across individuals with schizophrenia, those at genetic risk, and controls.

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