Some patients with schizophrenia have impaired hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis function. However, there is a dearth of studies focusing on corticotropin-releasing hormone (CRH) levels in the brains of schizophrenia patients, which motivated us to examine whether cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) CRH concentrations are altered in these patients. We also examined the possible correlation of CSF CRH level with clinical variables such as schizophrenia symptoms and antipsychotic medication. The study population comprised 20 patients with a diagnosis of schizophrenia according to DSM-5 criteria and 25 healthy controls, who underwent lumbar puncture. Most of the patients were treated with antipsychotic drugs and their doses were converted to chlorpromazine (CP) equivalent values. CSF CRH concentrations were measured by an enzyme immunoassay. Symptom severity was assessed using the Positive and Negative Syndrome Scale (PANSS). There was a significantly lower CSF CRH concentration in the patients than in the controls (Mann-Whitney U test: p = 0.014). A significantly negative correlation of CSF CRH levels with PANSS negative scores was found in the patients (Spearman’s: ρ = -0.58, p = 0.007). However, CSF CRH concentrations were not significantly correlated with the PANSS total (ρ = -0.035, p = 0.89), positive (ρ = 0.25, p = 0.30), or general psychopathology (ρ = 0.13, p = 0.59) scores. No significant correlation was found with CP equivalent values (ρ = 0.00, p = 1.00). In conclusion, we found that the patients with schizophrenia had lower CSF CRH concentrations compared to the controls and that the lower CSF CRH was associated with negative symptoms of the illness. Further studies in a larger sample and in drug-free patients are warranted.
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