Background: While structural brain imaging abnormalities have been identified in schizophrenia and related disorders, it is unclear when they arise. Some appear to predate the illness and may be genetic in origin, while others are associated with the onset of the disorder. Methods: We examined the hippocampal volumes and anterior cingulate morphology from the MRI scans of 79 male subjects at ultra-high-risk (UHR) for developing psychosis, 35 of whom had a family history of schizophrenia, and compared them with 49 healthy male volunteers. Results: Analysis of covariance demonstrated that left hippocampal volumes were significantly smaller in the UHR group without a family history of schizophrenia, when compared to the UHR group with such history. A similar pattern was found for the left anterior cingulate region, both in terms of reduced paracingulate folding and cingulate sulcus interruptions, although this did not reach significance. Conclusions: We found that a family history of schizophrenia was not associated with a greater degree of structural brain abnormalities in an ultra-high-risk group, and in fact it was those UHR patients without such history who displayed greater abnormalities, although this only reached significance for the left hippocampus. Thus, it appears that the mechanisms that result in gross morphological anomalies in the hippocampus and anterior cingulate in psychosis are driven more by environmental than genetic factors.
- Hippocampal volume