Distinguishing prodromal from first-episode psychosis using neuroanatomical single-subject pattern recognition

Stefan Borgwardt*, Nikolaos Koutsouleris, Jacqueline Aston, Erich Studerus, Renata Smieskova, Anita Riecher-Rössler, Eva M. Meisenzahl

*Corresponding author for this work
50 Citations (Scopus)


Background: The at-risk mental state for psychosis (ARMS) and the first episode of psychosis have been associated with structural brain abnormalities that could aid in the individualized early recognition of psychosis. However, it is unknown whether the development of these brain alterations predates the clinical deterioration of at-risk individuals, or alternatively, whether it parallels the transition to psychosis at the single-subject level. Methods: We evaluated the performance of an magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)-based classification system in classifying disease stages from at-risk individuals with subsequent transition to psychosis (ARMS-T) and patients with first-episode psychosis (FE). Pairwise and multigroup biomarkers were constructed using the structural MRI data of 22 healthy controls (HC), 16 ARMS-T and 23 FE subjects. The performance of these biomarkers was measured in unseen test cases using repeated nested cross-validation. Results: The classification accuracies in the HC vs FE, HC vs ARMS-T, and ARMS-T vs FE analyses were 86.7%, 80.7%, and 80.0%, respectively. The neuroanatomical decision functions underlying these discriminative results particularly involved the frontotemporal, cingulate, cerebellar, and subcortical brain structures. Conclusions: Our findings suggest that structural brain alterations accumulate at the onset of psychosis and occur even before transition to psychosis allowing for the single-subject differentiation of the prodromal and first-episode stages of the disease. Pattern regression techniques facilitate an accurate prediction of these structural brain dynamics at the early stage of psychosis, potentially allowing for the early recognition of individuals at risk of developing psychosis.

Original languageEnglish
JournalSchizophrenia bulletin
Issue number5
Pages (from-to)1105-1114
Number of pages10
Publication statusPublished - 09.2013


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