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Background: Disorganized thinking is a core feature of acute psychotic episodes that is linked to social and vocational functioning. Several lines of evidence implicate disrupted cognitive control, excitatory overdrive and oxidative stress relating to the anterior cingulate cortex as mechanisms of conceptual disorganization (CD). We examined 3 candidate mechanistic markers related to CD in firstepisode psychosis: glutamate excess, cortical antioxidant (glutathione) status and the integrity of the cingulum bundle that connects regions implicated in cognitive control. Methods: We used fractional anisotropy maps from 7 T diffusion-weighted imaging to investigate the bilateral cingulum based on a probabilistic white matter atlas. We compared high CD, low CD and healthy control groups and performed probabilistic fibre tracking from the identified clusters (regions of interest within the cingulum) to the rest of the brain. We quantified glutamate and glutathione using magnetic resonance spectroscopy (MRS) in the dorsal anterior cingulate cortex. Results: We found a significant fractional anisotropy reduction in a cluster in the left cingulum in the high CD group compared to the low CD group (Cohen’s d = 1.39; p < 0.001) and controls (Cohen’s d = 0.86; p = 0.009). Glutamate levels did not vary among groups, but glutathione levels were higher in the high CD group than in the low CD group. We also found higher glutathione related to lower fractional anisotropy in the cingulum cluster in the high CD group. Limitations: The MRS measures of glutamine were highly uncertain, and MRS was acquired from a single voxel only. Conclusion: Acute CD relates to indicators of oxidative stress, as well as reduced white matter integrity of the cingulum, but not to MRI-based glutamatergic excess. We propose that both oxidative imbalance and structural dysconnectivity underlie acute disorganization.

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Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.



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