Original Research

Neuropsychiatric symptoms and diagnosis of grey matter heterotopia: A case-based reflection

Gian Lippi
South African Journal of Psychiatry | Vol 23 | a923 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/sajpsychiatry.v23i0.923 | © 2017 Gian Lippi | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 15 December 2015 | Published: 28 March 2017

About the author(s)

Gian Lippi, Department of Psychiatry, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Pretoria, South Africa and Forensic Unit, Weskoppies Hospital, South Africa

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Neuropsychiatric symptoms can be related to less common underlying neuropsychiatric conditions – in this case report, the condition discussed is that of grey matter heterotopia (GMH). The patient presented with a history of prominent aggression, impulsivity and manipulative and attention-seeking behaviour. Episodes of depression and incidents of deliberate self-harm and suicide attempts had been reported. Neuropsychiatric symptoms included anxiety, a labile mood, delusional thinking and auditory hallucinations. Testing revealed some cognitive difficulties and severe impairment of frontal lobe functions. A magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan of his brain revealed the presence of GMH, which had previously been misdiagnosed as tuberous sclerosis. An MRI scan of the brain is the special investigation of choice for the correct diagnosis of GMH. The pathognomonic finding is that of heterotopic grey matter abnormally located within areas of white matter. Defective foetal neuronal migration between the third and fifth month of pregnancy can lead to GMH, which can present later on in childhood or adolescence with epilepsy, intellectual impairment or reading difficulties. During the late teenage years or early adulthood, a wide variety of neuropsychiatric symptoms may be present, which can lead to diagnostic difficulties.


Grey matter heterotopia; Schizophrenia; neuronal migration


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