Purpose of review: Several lines of evidence suggest that the normal integration of cerebral function may be compromised in schizophrenia. Abnormalities in white matter tracts, which connect brain regions into functional networks, may be directly relevant to its pathophysiology. Diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) has increasingly been used to study white matter abnormalities in schizophrenia; in this review, we will discuss recent DTI findings focusing on the early stages of the disorder.
Recent findings: Deficits in white matter integrity as inferred by DTI appear to be present in the early stages of schizophrenia, even in neuroleptic-naive patients, and may be the result of interaction between illness-related processes and normal development. The pattern of identified abnormalities is not totally consistent across all studies, with frontotemporal, frontoparietal and temporooccipital connections as well as projection fibers and cerebellar white matter being among the affected tracts.
Summary: Recent DTI findings further support the hypothesis of structural dysconnectivity in schizophrenia. The presence of white matter abnormalities early in the course of the illness is suggestive of these being related to the emergence of the disorder.