Background: The pattern of brain morphological changes at the early stages of schizophrenia may depend on the age at onset of illness; in children and adolescents with schizophrenia, grey matter deficits are seen in the parietal lobe whereas in individuals with adult onset these are more widespread.
Aims: To examine whether white matter is similarly affected.
Method: Diffusion tensor imaging was used to compare fractional anisotropy measures in individuals with adolescent-onset (n = 17) and adult-onset schizophrenia (n = 17) with those in age- and gender-matched controls.
Results: Compared with their respective controls, individuals with adolescent-onset schizophrenia showed fractional anisotropy decrease in parietal regions; individuals with adult onset showed additional fractional anisotropy reductions in frontal, temporal and cerebellar regions. A differential effect of age at onset (adolescent v. adult) was noted bilaterally in medial prefrontal white matter.
Conclusions: White matter abnormalities in frontal regions in schizophrenia may depend on developmental stage at the time of illness onset.