N-Acetylcysteine effects on glutathione and glutamate in schizophrenia: A preliminary MRS study

Academic Article


  • N-acetylcysteine (NAC) is a commonly used antioxidant that may have beneficial effects for schizophrenia. In this double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled preliminary study, 40 patients with schizophrenia or schizoaffective disorder were randomized to receive 2400 mg NAC daily or placebo over eight weeks to examine the effects of NAC on prefrontal magnetic resonance spectroscopy levels of glutathione and glutamate. Secondary outcomes included negative symptoms, cognition, and plasma glutathione levels. We found that NAC treatment was associated with increased glutathione (statistically significant) and decreased glutamate (trend-level) compared with placebo in medial prefrontal cortex but not dorsolateral prefrontal cortex. We also observed a baseline association between medial prefrontal cortex levels of glutathione and plasma reduced / oxidized glutathione ratios. No treatment effects on symptoms or cognition were observed. Taken together, these findings indicate that treatment with N-acetylcysteine may increase medial prefrontal cortical levels of glutathione after eight weeks of treatment. These changes in cortical levels of glutathione may serve as an early biomarker of later clinical change and may underlie the cognitive and symptomatic improvements reported in longer-term treatment studies.
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    Author List

  • Yang YS; Maddock RJ; Zhang H; Lee J; Hellemann G; Marder SR; Green MF
  • Volume

  • 325