Background: Alterations in insular grey matter (GM) volume has been consistently reported for affective and non-affective psychoses both in chronic and first-episode patients, ultimately suggesting that the insula might represent a good region to study in order to assess the longitudinal course of psychotic disorders. Therefore, in this longitudinal Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) study, we aimed at further investigating the key role of insular volumes in psychosis. Material and methods: 68 First-Episode Psychosis (FEP) patients, 68 patients with Schizophrenia (SCZ), 47 Bipolar Disorder (BD) patients, and 94 Healthy Controls (HC) were enrolled and underwent a 1.5 T MRI evaluation. A subsample of 99 subjects (10 HC, 23 BD, 29 SCZ, 37 FEP) was rescanned after 2,53 ± 1,68 years. The insular cortex was manually traced and then divided into an anterior and posterior portion. Group and correlation analyses were then performed both at baseline and at follow-up. Results: At baseline, greater anterior and lower posterior insular GM volumes were observed in chronic patients. At follow-up, we found that FEP patients had a significant GM volume increase from baseline to follow-up, especially in the posterior insula whereas chronic patients showed a relative stability. Finally, significant negative correlations between illness severity and pharmacological treatment and insular GM volumes were observed in the whole group of psychotic patients. Conclusions: The longitudinal assessment of both chronic and first-episode patients allowed us to detect a complex pattern of GM abnormalities in selective sub-portions of insular volumes, ultimately suggesting that this structure could represent a key biological marker of psychotic disorders.
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