Hallucinations and Brain Morphology Across Early Adolescence: A Longitudinal Neuroimaging Study

Lisa R. Steenkamp, Elisabet Blok, Ryan L. Muetzel, Tonya White, Manon H.J. Hillegers, Laura M.E. Blanken, Koen Bolhuis, Henning Tiemeier*, Steven A. Kushner

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)
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Background: Psychotic disorders have been widely associated with structural brain abnormalities. However, it is unclear whether brain structure predicts psychotic experiences in youth from the general population, owing to an overall paucity of studies and predominantly cross-sectional designs. Here, the authors investigated longitudinal associations between brain morphology and hallucinations from childhood to early adolescence. Methods: This study was embedded in the population-based Generation R Study. Children underwent structural neuroimaging at age 10 years (N = 2042); a subsample received a second scan at age 14 years (n = 964). Hallucinations were assessed at ages 10 and 14 years and studied as a binary variable. Cross-lagged panel models and generalized linear mixed-effects models were fitted to examine longitudinal associations between brain morphology and hallucinations. Results: Smaller total gray and white matter volumes and total cortical surface area at baseline were associated with a higher occurrence of hallucinations between ages 10 and 14 years. The regions associated with hallucinations were widespread, including the frontal, parietal, temporal, and occipital lobes, as well as the insula and cingulate cortex. Analyses of subcortical structures revealed that smaller baseline hippocampal volumes were longitudinally associated with hallucinations, although this association was no longer significant following adjustment for intracranial volume. No evidence for reverse temporality was observed (i.e., hallucinations predicting brain differences). Conclusions: The findings from this longitudinal study suggest that global structural brain differences are associated with the development of hallucinations. These results extend findings from clinical populations and provide evidence for a neurodevelopmental vulnerability across the psychosis continuum.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)781-790
Number of pages10
JournalBiological Psychiatry
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - 15 Nov 2022

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Publisher Copyright: © 2022 Society of Biological Psychiatry


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