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.
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.
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.
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.