Anatomical abnormalities of the anterior cingulate cortex in schizophrenia: bridging the gap between neuroimaging and neuropathology

Schizophr Bull. 2009 Sep;35(5):973-93. doi: 10.1093/schbul/sbn025. Epub 2008 Apr 23.


The anterior cingulate cortex (ACC) is a functionally heterogeneous region involved in diverse cognitive and emotional processes that support goal-directed behaviour. Structural magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and neuropathological findings over the past two decades have converged to suggest abnormalities in the region may represent a neurobiological basis for many of the clinical manifestations of schizophrenia. However, while each approach offers complimentary information that can provide clues regarding underlying patholophysiological processes, the findings from these 2 fields are seldom integrated. In this article, we review structural neuroimaging and neuropathological studies of the ACC, focusing on the unique information they provide. The available imaging data suggest grey matter reductions in the ACC precede psychosis onset in some categories of high-risk individuals, show sub-regional specificity, and may progress with illness duration. The available post-mortem findings indicate these imaging-related changes are accompanied by reductions in neuronal, synaptic, and dendritic density, as well as increased afferent input, suggesting the grey matter differences observed with MRI arise from alterations in both neuronal and non-neuronal tissue compartments. We discuss the potential mechanisms that might facilitate integration of these findings and consider strategies for future research.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Afferent Pathways / pathology
  • Cell Count
  • Dendrites / pathology
  • Dominance, Cerebral / physiology
  • Gyrus Cinguli / pathology*
  • Humans
  • Limbic System / pathology
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging*
  • Neuroglia / pathology
  • Neurons / pathology
  • Prefrontal Cortex / pathology
  • Schizophrenia / diagnosis*
  • Schizophrenia / pathology*
  • Schizophrenic Psychology*
  • Synapses / pathology