Structural correlates of psychopathological symptom dimensions in schizophrenia: a voxel-based morphometric study

Neuroimage. 2008 Feb 15;39(4):1600-12. doi: 10.1016/j.neuroimage.2007.10.029. Epub 2007 Nov 1.


Structural neuroimaging has substantially advanced the neurobiological research of schizophrenia by describing a range of focal brain alterations as possible neuroanatomical underpinnings of the disease. Despite this progress, a considerable heterogeneity of structural findings persists that may reflect the phenomenological diversity of schizophrenia. It is unclear whether the range of possible clinical disease manifestations relates to a core structural brain deficit or to distinct structural correlates. Therefore, gray matter density (GMD) differences between 175 schizophrenic patients (SZ) and 177 matched healthy control subjects (HC) were examined in a three-step approach using cross-sectional and conjunctional voxel-based morphometry (VBM): (1) analysis of structural alterations irrespective of symptomatology; (2) subdivision of the patient sample according to a three-dimensional factor model of the PANSS and investigation of structural differences between these subsamples and healthy controls; (3) analysis of a common pattern of structural alterations present in all patient subsamples compared to healthy controls. Significant GMD reductions in patients compared to controls were identified within the prefrontal, limbic, paralimbic, temporal and thalamic regions. The disorganized symptom dimension was associated with bilateral alterations in temporal, insular and medial prefrontal cortices. Positive symptoms were associated with left-pronounced alterations in perisylvian regions and extended thalamic GMD losses. Negative symptoms were linked to the most extended alterations within orbitofrontal, medial prefrontal, lateral prefrontal and temporal cortices as well as limbic and subcortical structures. Thus, structural heterogeneity in schizophrenia may relate to specific patterns of GMD reductions that possibly share a common prefrontal-perisylvian pattern of structural brain alterations.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Brain / pathology*
  • Brain / physiopathology*
  • Factor Analysis, Statistical
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Image Processing, Computer-Assisted
  • Linear Models
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Psychiatric Status Rating Scales
  • Schizophrenia / pathology*
  • Schizophrenia / physiopathology*
  • Schizophrenic Psychology