Abnormalities of myelination in schizophrenia detected in vivo with MRI, and post-mortem with analysis of oligodendrocyte proteins

Mol Psychiatry. 2003 Sep;8(9):811-20. doi: 10.1038/sj.mp.4001337.


Schizophrenia unfolds during the late period of brain maturation, while myelination is still continuing. In the present study, we used MRI and T2 relaxation analysis to measure the myelin water fraction in schizophrenia. In schizophrenia (n=30) compared with healthy subjects (n=27), overall white matter showed 12% lower myelin water fraction (P=0.031), with the most prominent effects on the left genu of the corpus callosum (36% lower, P=0.002). The left anterior genu was affected in both first-episode (P=0.035) and chronic patients (P=0.011). In healthy subjects, myelin water fraction in total white matter and in frontal white matter increased with age, and with years of education, indicating ongoing maturation. In patients with schizophrenia, neither relation was statistically significant. Post-mortem studies of anterior frontal cortex demonstrated less immunoreactivity of two oligodendrocyte-associated proteins in schizophrenia (2',3'-cyclic nucleotide 3'-phosphodiesterase by 33%, P=0.05; myelin-associated glycoprotein by 27%, P=0.14). Impaired myelination in schizophrenia could contribute to abnormalities of neural connectivity and persistent functional impairment in the illness.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Controlled Clinical Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • 2',3'-Cyclic-Nucleotide Phosphodiesterases / analysis
  • Adult
  • Body Composition / physiology
  • Body Fluid Compartments / physiology
  • Chronic Disease
  • Demyelinating Diseases / complications
  • Demyelinating Diseases / diagnosis*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Matched-Pair Analysis
  • Middle Aged
  • Myelin Sheath / chemistry
  • Myelin-Associated Glycoprotein / analysis
  • Nerve Fibers, Myelinated / pathology*
  • Oligodendroglia / chemistry
  • Oligodendroglia / pathology
  • Reference Values
  • Schizophrenia / complications
  • Schizophrenia / pathology*
  • Water / analysis


  • Myelin-Associated Glycoprotein
  • Water
  • 2',3'-Cyclic-Nucleotide Phosphodiesterases