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40. Is Retinal Thinning a Marker of Altered Neurodevelopment or Neurodegeneration in Schizophrenia?
Studies of multiple neuropsychiatric disorders (e.g., MS, Parkinson’s disease) indicate that thinning of retinal layers is predictive of cognitive decline, cortical volume loss, and illness progression. These data suggest that the retina, which is the only part of the CNS that can be imaged directly and non-invasively, can provide biomarkers relevant to issues of neurodevelopment and neurodegeneration in schizophrenia. Recent studies have found evidence of retinal thinning in schizophrenia patients; however, it is not known whether retinal thinning is present at the first episode or whether it is a result of progression of the disease. In an ongoing study, we are investigating this issue through the use of Optical Coherence Tomography (OCT). We hypothesized that first episode patients would not differ on any retinal variables when compared to age matched controls, while chronic patients would show evidence of retinal thinning compared to age matched controls. Preliminary analyses have been conducted comparing four groups: first episode patients (n=12), controls under 30 years of age (n=20), chronically ill patients (n=11), and controls over 30 years of age (n=13). To date, there is no evidence suggestive of retinal structural changes in the first episode group. However, correlational findings indicate that first episode patients with longer durations of illness are characterized by retinal thinning relative to those with shorter durations of illness. Findings among chronically ill patients demonstrate statistically significant evidence of thinning of the macula in both eyes, replicating several prior studies with older patients. These data suggest that retinal structure is unaffected very early in the course of schizophrenia, but that thinning occurs with progression of the disease. As data collection is ongoing, findings from an expanded data set will be presented at the conference.