High-resolution SPECT study of regional cerebral blood flow in drug-free and drug-naive schizophrenic patients

A. Vita, S. Bressi, D. Perani, G. Invernizzi, G. M. Giobbio, M. Dieci, M. Garbarini, A. Del Sole, F. Fazio

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Objective: The purpose of the study was to compare regional cerebral blood flow (CBF) in schizophrenic patients never treated with psychotropic drugs (drug-naive) and in schizophrenic patients free from drugs for various amounts of time. Method: Seventeen schizophrenic patients (nine who were drug naive and eight who had been drug free for at least 3 weeks) and 12 healthy volunteers were included in the study. Regional cerebral perfusion was studied with the use of a head-dedicated, high-resolution single photon emission computed tomography (SPECT) system. Cerebral SPECT scans were performed with technetium-99m-hexamethyl-propyleneamine oxime as a tracer. Regional CBF was measured as a ratio of regional tracer uptake to either cerebellar or whole brain tracer uptake. Results: When the cerebellum was taken as the reference region, the drug-naive patients showed a significant bilateral reduction of perfusion in the mesial, dorsolateral, and basal prefrontal cortex, in the temporal cortex, and in the subcortical gray structures: thalamus, caudate nucleus, and putamen/pallidum complex. No significant differences emerged in the comparison between the drug-free patients and the healthy subjects. With correction for whole brain activity, some of the differences that had been found disappeared, but a significant hypoperfusion persisted in the basal ganglia and thalamus of the drug-naive, but not the drug-free, patients. Few correlations between symptom presentation and regional CBF perfusion were observed in the schizophrenic patients. Conclusions: These results suggest a pattern of cerebral hypoperfusion in schizophrenic patients never treated with neuroleptics that was not detectable in patients who had undergone various periods of pharmacological washout.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)876-882
Number of pages7
JournalAmerican Journal of Psychiatry
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 1995

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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