Effect of age at onset of schizophrenia on white matter abnormalities

Br J Psychiatry. 2009 Oct;195(4):346-53. doi: 10.1192/bjp.bp.108.055376.


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.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Age of Onset
  • Anisotropy
  • Brain Mapping / methods
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Cerebral Cortex / pathology*
  • Child
  • Diffusion Tensor Imaging / methods
  • Diffusion Tensor Imaging / statistics & numerical data*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Image Processing, Computer-Assisted / methods
  • Male
  • Schizophrenia / epidemiology
  • Schizophrenia / pathology*
  • Schizophrenic Psychology
  • Young Adult