Hippocampal volume loss in early schizophrenia has been linked with markers of inflammation and oxidative stress, and with less response of negative symptoms. Aripiprazole has been reported to preserve hippocampal volume and to reduce inflammation.
Study 1 was a 12-month multicenter randomized placebo-controlled trial of citalopram added to clinician-determined second-generation antipsychotic medication in 95 patients with first-episode schizophrenia (FES), 19 of whom received aripiprazole. We compared participants taking aripiprazole with those on other antipsychotics to determine whether those on aripiprazole had less hippocampal volume loss. We also examined peripheral biomarker data from medication-naive patients with schizophrenia receiving 8 weeks of antipsychotic treatment (n = 24) to see whether markers of inflammation and oxidative stress that previously predicted hippocampal volume differed between aripiprazole (n = 9) and other antipsychotics (study 2).
Aripiprazole was associated with a mean increase in hippocampal volume of 0.35% (SD, 0.80%) compared with a 0.53% decrease (SD, 1.2%) with other antipsychotics during the first year of maintenance treatment in patients with FES. This difference was significant after adjusting for age, sex, citalopram treatment, and baseline Brief Psychiatric Rating Scale score (B = 0.0079, P = 0.03). Aripiprazole was also associated with reduced concentrations of the inflammatory cytokines interleukin-8 and tumor necrosis factor (P < 0.01) during the first 8 weeks of treatment in medication-naive patients with FES.
These results suggest that aripiprazole may protect against hippocampal atrophy via an anti-inflammatory mechanism, but these results require replication in larger, randomized trials, and the clinical relevance of hippocampal volume loss is not established.