Cortical-basal ganglia imbalance in schizophrenia patients and unaffected first-degree relatives

Schizophr Res. 2012 Jul;138(2-3):120-7. doi: 10.1016/j.schres.2012.02.029. Epub 2012 Mar 29.


Structural brain changes are amongst the most robust biological alterations in schizophrenia, and their investigation in unaffected relatives is important for an assessment of the contribution of genetic factors. In this cross-sectional morphometry study we investigated whether volume changes in SZ are linked with genetic vulnerability and whether these effects are separated from secondary illness effects. We compared density of grey and white matter using high-resolution 3D-anatomical MRI imaging data in 31 SZ patients, 29 first-degree relatives and 38 matched healthy controls, using Voxel-Based Morphometry (VBM) with SPM8. Volume of basal ganglia was also compared by manual segmentation. We found increased grey matter in the striatum, globus pallidus internus and thalamus and decreased grey matter in the parahippocampal and cingulate gyri both in SZ patients and relatives. Additionally, SZ patients had decreased volume of temporal, frontal and limbic grey and white matter in comparison with relatives and controls. Relatives showed intermediate values in many of these areas. Increased volume in the thalamus and parts of the basal ganglia and decreased volume of cortical areas and underlying white matter were thus associated with schizophrenia and its genetic vulnerability. These results suggest that brain morphological changes associated with SZ are in part determined by genetic risk factors and are not entirely explained by effects of medication or changes secondary to illness.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Basal Ganglia / pathology*
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Cerebral Cortex / pathology*
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Family
  • Female
  • Hippocampus / pathology*
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Nerve Fibers, Myelinated / pathology*
  • Nerve Fibers, Unmyelinated / pathology*
  • Organ Size / genetics
  • Schizophrenia / genetics
  • Schizophrenia / pathology*
  • Thalamus / pathology*