Abnormal asymmetries in subcortical brain volume in schizophrenia

Mol Psychiatry. 2016 Oct;21(10):1460-6. doi: 10.1038/mp.2015.209. Epub 2016 Jan 19.


Subcortical structures, which include the basal ganglia and parts of the limbic system, have key roles in learning, motor control and emotion, but also contribute to higher-order executive functions. Prior studies have reported volumetric alterations in subcortical regions in schizophrenia. Reported results have sometimes been heterogeneous, and few large-scale investigations have been conducted. Moreover, few large-scale studies have assessed asymmetries of subcortical volumes in schizophrenia. Here, as a work completely independent of a study performed by the ENIGMA consortium, we conducted a large-scale multisite study of subcortical volumetric differences between patients with schizophrenia and controls. We also explored the laterality of subcortical regions to identify characteristic similarities and differences between them. T1-weighted images from 1680 healthy individuals and 884 patients with schizophrenia, obtained with 15 imaging protocols at 11 sites, were processed with FreeSurfer. Group differences were calculated for each protocol and meta-analyzed. Compared with controls, patients with schizophrenia demonstrated smaller bilateral hippocampus, amygdala, thalamus and accumbens volumes as well as intracranial volume, but larger bilateral caudate, putamen, pallidum and lateral ventricle volumes. We replicated the rank order of effect sizes for subcortical volumetric changes in schizophrenia reported by the ENIGMA consortium. Further, we revealed leftward asymmetry for thalamus, lateral ventricle, caudate and putamen volumes, and rightward asymmetry for amygdala and hippocampal volumes in both controls and patients with schizophrenia. Also, we demonstrated a schizophrenia-specific leftward asymmetry for pallidum volume. These findings suggest the possibility of aberrant laterality in neural pathways and connectivity patterns related to the pallidum in schizophrenia.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Amygdala
  • Basal Ganglia
  • Brain / physiopathology*
  • Brain Mapping
  • Cohort Studies
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Functional Laterality / physiology
  • Hippocampus
  • Humans
  • Image Processing, Computer-Assisted
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging / methods
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Psychiatric Status Rating Scales
  • Putamen
  • Schizophrenia / physiopathology*
  • Thalamus