Schizophrenia spectrum disorders (SSD) can be associated with neurodegenerative processes causing disruption of neuronal, synaptic, or axonal integrity. Some previous studies have reported alterations of neurodegenerative markers (such as amyloid beta [Aβ], tau, or neurofilaments) in patients with SSD. However, the current state of research remains inconclusive. Therefore, the rationale of this study was to investigate established neurodegenerative markers in the cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) of a large group of patients with SSD.
Measurements of Aβ1–40, Aß1–42, phospho- and total-tau in addition to neurofilament light (NFL), medium (NFM), and heavy (NFH) chains were performed in the CSF of 100 patients with SSD (60 F, 40 M; age 33.7 ± 12.0) and 39 controls with idiopathic intracranial hypertension (33 F, 6 M; age 34.6 ± 12.0) using enzyme-linked immunoassays.
The NFM levels were significantly increased in SSD patients (P = .009), whereas phospho-tau levels were lower in comparison to the control group (P = .018). No other significant differences in total-tau, beta-amyloid-quotient (Aβ1–42/Aβ1–40), NFL, and NFH were identified.
The findings argue against a general tauopathy or amyloid pathology in patients with SSD. However, high levels of NFM, which has been linked to regulatory functions in dopaminergic neurotransmission, were associated with SSD. Therefore, NFM could be a promising candidate for further research on SSD.