Mol Psychiatry. 2022 Jun 14. doi: 10.1038/s41380-022-01616-5. Online ahead of print.
Schizophrenia is frequently associated with obesity, which is linked with neurostructural alterations. Yet, we do not understand how the brain correlates of obesity map onto the brain changes in schizophrenia. We obtained MRI-derived brain cortical and subcortical measures and body mass index (BMI) from 1260 individuals with schizophrenia and 1761 controls from 12 independent research sites within the ENIGMA-Schizophrenia Working Group. We jointly modeled the statistical effects of schizophrenia and BMI using mixed effects. BMI was additively associated with structure of many of the same brain regions as schizophrenia, but the cortical and subcortical alterations in schizophrenia were more widespread and pronounced. Both BMI and schizophrenia were primarily associated with changes in cortical thickness, with fewer correlates in surface area. While, BMI was negatively associated with cortical thickness, the significant associations between BMI and surface area or subcortical volumes were positive. Lastly, the brain correlates of obesity were replicated among large studies and closely resembled neurostructural changes in major depressive disorders. We confirmed widespread associations between BMI and brain structure in individuals with schizophrenia. People with both obesity and schizophrenia showed more pronounced brain alterations than people with only one of these conditions. Obesity appears to be a relevant factor which could account for heterogeneity of brain imaging findings and for differences in brain imaging outcomes among people with schizophrenia.