Wojtalik JA, Eack SM, Pollock BG, Keshavan MS
Psychiatry Res 2012 Nov;204(2-3):61-7
Antipsychotic and other medications used in the treatment of schizophrenia place a burden on the cholinergic subsystems of the brain, which have been associated with increased cognitive impairment in the disorder. This study sought to examine the neurobiologic correlates of the association between serum anticholinergic activity (SAA) and cognitive impairments in early schizophrenia. Neurocognitive performance on measures of memory and executive function, structural magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans, and SAA assays were collected from 47 early course, stabilized outpatients with schizophrenia or schizoaffective disorder. Voxel-based morphometry analyses employing general linear models, adjusting for demographic and illness-related confounds, were used to investigate the associations between SAA, gray matter morphology, and neurocognitive impairment. SAA was related to working memory and executive function impairments. Higher SAA was significantly associated with lower gray matter density in broad regions of the frontal and medial-temporal lobes, including the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC), hippocampus, and striatum. Lower gray matter volume in the left DLPFC was found to significantly mediate the association between SAA and working memory impairment. Disease- and/or medication-related cholinergic dysfunction may be associated with brain volume abnormalities in early course schizophrenia, which may account for the association between SAA and cognitive dysfunction in the disorder.