White matter alterations in early stages of schizophrenia: a systematic review of diffusion tensor imaging studies

J Neuroimaging. 2014 Mar-Apr;24(2):101-10. doi: 10.1111/j.1552-6569.2012.00779.x. Epub 2013 Jan 14.


Several lines of evidence suggest that the normal integration of cerebral communication may be compromised in schizophrenia, with white matter (WM) abnormalities being integral to these functional deficits. Diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) is a neuroimaging technique which has increasingly been used to study WM through quantitative indices of its structural and orientational characteristics. Identifying the WM differences early in the course of schizophrenia may assist in prevention, early diagnosis and identification of treatment targets. In that respect, the aims of the present study were to (a) systematically review WM integrity in the early stages of schizophrenia as inferred by DTI and (b) specifically examine parameters that may affect WM: age, duration of illness and treatment. In summary, DTI studies in early schizophrenia suggest that structural dysconnectivity may be already present in recent-onset and drug-naïve patients, as well as in individuals clinically at high risk for developing schizophrenia. Although the pattern of WM differences is not totally consistent frontal, fronto-temporal and fronto-limbic connections, with tracts including the superior longitudinal fasciculus, cingulum bundle, uncinate fasciculus and corpus callosum seem to be affected. These differences may depend on the developmental stage of the subjects, the duration of illness and exposure to antipsychotic medication.

Keywords: Neurodevelopment; diffusion tensor imaging; dysconnectivity; high-risk psychosis; schizophrenia; white matter.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Brain / pathology*
  • Diffusion Tensor Imaging / methods*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Nerve Fibers, Myelinated / pathology*
  • Schizophrenia / pathology*
  • White Matter / pathology*