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Original Investigation |

Glutamate Levels in the Associative Striatum Before and After 4 Weeks of Antipsychotic Treatment in First-Episode Psychosis:  A Longitudinal Proton Magnetic Resonance Spectroscopy Study

Camilo de la Fuente-Sandoval, MD, MSc, PhD1,2; Pablo León-Ortiz, MD, MSc1,3; Mariana Azcárraga, MD1; Sylvana Stephano, MD2; Rafael Favila, BSc, MSc4; Leonardo Díaz-Galvis, MD, MSc5; Patricia Alvarado-Alanis, MD, MSc1; Jesús Ramírez-Bermúdez, MD, MSc2; Ariel Graff-Guerrero, MD, MSc, PhD6
[+] Author Affiliations
1Laboratory of Experimental Psychiatry, Instituto Nacional de Neurología y Neurocirugía, Mexico City, Mexico
2Neuropsychiatry Department, Instituto Nacional de Neurología y Neurocirugía, Mexico City, Mexico
3Department of Education, Instituto Nacional de Neurología y Neurocirugía, Mexico City, Mexico
4MR Advanced Applications, GE Healthcare, Mexico City, Mexico
5Latin America Medical Affairs, Janssen-Cilag, Mexico City, Mexico
6Multimodal Neuroimaging Schizophrenia Group, Research Imaging Centre, Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, and Department of Psychiatry, University of Toronto, Toronto, Ontario, Canada
JAMA Psychiatry. 2013;70(10):1057-1066. doi:10.1001/jamapsychiatry.2013.289.
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Importance  Increased glutamate levels in the right associative striatum have been described in patients during a first episode of psychosis. Whether this increase would persist after effective antipsychotic treatment is unknown.

Objectives  To compare the glutamate levels in antipsychotic-naive patients with first-episode psychosis in the right associative striatum and right cerebellar cortex using proton magnetic resonance spectroscopy before and 4 weeks after antipsychotic treatment and to compare these results with normative data from sex-matched healthy control subjects.

Design, Setting, and Participants  Before-after trial in an inpatient psychiatric research unit among 24 antipsychotic-naive patients with first-episode psychosis and 18 healthy controls matched for age, sex, handedness, and cigarette smoking.

Interventions  Participants underwent 2 proton magnetic resonance spectroscopy studies: patients were imaged at baseline and after 4 weeks of antipsychotic treatment, while controls were imaged at baseline and at 4 weeks after the baseline measurement. Patients were treated with oral risperidone (open label) for 4 weeks with dosages that were titrated on the basis of clinical judgment.

Main Outcomes and Measures  Glutamate levels were estimated using LCModel (version 6.2-1T) and were corrected for the cerebrospinal fluid proportion within the voxel.

Results  Patients with first-episode psychosis had higher levels of glutamate in the associative striatum and the cerebellum during the antipsychotic-naive condition compared with controls. After clinically effective antipsychotic treatment, glutamate levels significantly decreased in the associative striatum, with no significant change in the cerebellum. No differences in glutamate levels were observed between groups at 4 weeks.

Conclusions and Relevance  Increased glutamate levels observed at baseline in patients with first-episode psychosis normalized after 4 weeks of clinically effective antipsychotic treatment. These results provide support for the hypothesis that improvement in clinical symptoms might be related to a decrease in glutamate levels.

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Figure 1.
Voxel Placement in 2 Regions of Interest: the Right Associative Striatum and the Right Cerebellar Cortex

Representative spectra with the raw data (in black) and fitted data (in red) are shown for each region. Cr + PCr indicates creatine-containing compounds; Gln, glutamine; Glu, glutamate; Glx, glutamate + glutamine; GPC + PCh, choline-containing compounds; Ins, myo-inositol; and NAA, N-acetylaspartate.

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Figure 2.
Glutamate Levels in the Right Associative Striatum of Patients With First-Episode Psychosis (FEP) and Healthy Control Subjects at Baseline and at 4 Weeks

Horizontal bars represent the mean for the groups. *P < .05 after the removal of 2 outlying participants indicated within the circles.

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