Polyunsaturated fatty acid concentration predicts myelin integrity in early-phase psychosis

Bart D. Peters, Marise W.J. Machielsen, Wendela P. Hoen, Matthan W.A. Caan, Anil K. Malhotra, Philip R. Szeszko, Marinus Duran, Silvia D. Olabarriaga, Lieuwe De Haan

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Background: White matter (WM) abnormalities have been implicated in schizophrenia, yet the mechanisms underlying these abnormalities are not fully understood. Several lines of evidence suggest that polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) play a role in myelination, and there is substantial evidence documenting decreased PUFA concentrations in schizophrenia. We therefore hypothe sized that lower membrane PUFA concentrations may be related to reduced WM integrity in schizophrenia and related disorders. Methods: In 30 male patients with a recent-onset psychotic disorder, erythrocyte membrane PUFA concentrations were assessed and diffusion tensor imaging was performed with voxelwise analysis. Results: Lower total PUFA concentration was associated with lower fractional anisotropy (FA) throughout the corpus callosum and bilateral parietal, occipital, temporal and frontal WM (P <. 05, corrected). Of the individual PUFAs, lower arachidonic acid concentration, and to a lesser extent, lower nervonic acid, linoleic acid, and docosapentaenoic acid concentration were significantly associated with lower FA. PUFA concentrations were inversely associated with radial diffusivity but showed little association with axial diffusivity. Greater severity of negative symptoms was associated with lower nervonic acid concentration and lower FA values. Conclusions: Membrane PUFA concentrations appear to be robustly related to brain WM integrity in early phase psychosis. These findings may provide a basis for studies to investigate the effects of PUFA supplementation on WM integrity and associated symptomatology in early psychosis.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)830-838
Number of pages9
JournalSchizophrenia Bulletin
Issue number4
StatePublished - 1 Jul 2013
Externally publishedYes


  • diffusion tensor imaging
  • first-episode psychosis
  • myelin
  • polyunsaturated fatty acids
  • schizophrenia
  • white matter


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