T2 Relaxation Effects on Apparent N-acetylaspartate Concentration in Proton Magnetic Resonance Studies of Schizophrenia

Bracken2,3,*, B., Rouse2,**, E.,Renshaw2,3, P., and Olson3,, D.

Psychiatry Research, 213(2) (2013)

Over the past two decades, many magnetic resonance spectroscopy (MRS) studies reported lower N-acetylaspartate (NAA) in key brain regions of patients with schizophrenia (SZ) compared to healthy subjects. A smaller number of studies report no difference in NAA. Many sources of variance may contribute to these discordant results including heterogeneity of the SZ subject populations and methodological differences such as MRS acquisition parameters, and post-acquisition analytic methods.

The current study reviewed proton MRS literature reporting measurements of NAA in SZ with a focus on methodology.

Studies which reported lower NAA were significantly more likely to have used longer echo times (TEs), while studies with shorter TEs reported no concentration difference. This suggests that NAA quantitation using MRS was affected by the choice of TE, and that published MRS literature reporting NAA in SZ using a long TE is confounded by apparent differential T2 relaxation effects between SZ and healthy control groups.

Future MRS studies should measure T2 relaxation times. This would allow for spectral concentration measurements to be appropriately corrected for these relaxation effects. In addition, as metabolite concentration and T2 relaxation times are completely independent variables, this could offer distinct information about the metabolite of interest.

1 Behavioral Psychopharmacology Research Laboratory, McLean Hospital
2 McLean Imaging Center, McLean Hospital
3 Department of Psychiatry, Harvard Medical School
*B. Bracken is now at Charles River Analytics
** E. Rouse is now at the Carroll School of Management, Boston College,

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