Psychological Medicine

Original Articles

Proton magnetic resonance spectroscopy: an in vivo method of estimating hippocampal neuronal depletion in schizophrenia

M. Maiera1 c1, M. A. Rona1, G. J. Barkera1 and P. S. Toftsa1

a1 Institute of Neurology, Queen Square, London


Diffuse loss of cortical volume and ventricular enlargement have been demonstrated in schizophrenia using imaging. In addition, histological studies have provided evidence that the number of neurons in the medial temporal lobe structures is reduced and that the cytoarchitecture is abnormal. In an attempt to correlate these histological findings with in vivo estimates of neuronal integrity we have studied the concentration of the neuronal marker N-acetyl aspartate (NAA) in the hippocampi of schizophrenics using in vivo Magnetic Resonance Spectroscopy (MRS). Compared with a group of healthy volunteers schizophrenics showed a 22% loss of NAA in the left hippocampus. Two other metabolites, choline and creatine showed bilateral reduction in schizophrenics and these achieved significance in the left hippocampus. These results indicate a significant depletion of NAA in schizophrenia and are in close agreement with the reported neuronal loss in the hippocampus detected histologically. We propose that in vivo MRS is a valid measure of integrity of neuronal populations in schizophrenia.


c1 Address for correspondence: Dr M. Maier, Institute of Neurology, Queen Square, London WC1N 3BG.