Three-dimensional analysis with MRI and PET of the size, shape, and function of the thalamus in the schizophrenia spectrum

Am J Psychiatry. 1999 Aug;156(8):1190-9. doi: 10.1176/ajp.156.8.1190.


Objective: In an exploration of the schizophrenia spectrum, the authors compared thalamic size, shape, and metabolic activity in unmedicated patients with schizophrenia and schizotypal personality disorder to findings in age- and sex-matched healthy control subjects.

Method: Coregistered magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and positron emission tomography scans were obtained in 27 schizophrenic patients, 13 patients with schizotypal personality disorder, and 32 control subjects who performed a serial verbal learning test during tracer uptake. After thalamus edges were outlined on 1.2-mm MRI scans, a radial warping program yielded significance probability mapping in three dimensions.

Results: Significance probability mapping (with resampling) identified an area in the region of the mediodorsal nucleus bilaterally with significantly lower relative metabolism in the schizophrenia group than in either the control or schizotypal personality disorder groups, which did not differ from each other. The three groups did not differ significantly in total thalamic volume in square millimeters or thalamic volume relative to brain volume. Shape analyses revealed that schizophrenic patients had significantly fewer pixels in the left anterior region, whereas patients with schizotypal personality disorder had significantly fewer pixels in the region of the right mediodorsal nucleus than did control subjects.

Conclusions: Schizophrenic patients showed significant metabolism and shape differences from control subjects in selective subregions of the thalamus, whereas patients with schizotypal personality disorder showed only a difference in shape. Because the mediodorsal and anterior nuclei have different connections with limbic and prefrontal structures, the anterior thalamic shrinkage and mediodorsal metabolic and shape changes might relate to the different clinical pictures in schizotypal personality disorder and schizophrenia.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Brain / anatomy & histology
  • Brain / diagnostic imaging
  • Brain / metabolism
  • Diagnosis, Differential
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Image Processing, Computer-Assisted
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging*
  • Male
  • Memory / physiology
  • Schizophrenia / diagnosis*
  • Schizophrenia / metabolism
  • Schizotypal Personality Disorder / diagnosis*
  • Schizotypal Personality Disorder / diagnostic imaging
  • Schizotypal Personality Disorder / metabolism
  • Thalamic Nuclei / anatomy & histology
  • Thalamic Nuclei / diagnostic imaging
  • Thalamic Nuclei / metabolism
  • Thalamus / anatomy & histology*
  • Thalamus / diagnostic imaging
  • Thalamus / metabolism
  • Tomography, Emission-Computed*
  • Verbal Learning / physiology