By means of a novel methodology that can statistically derive patterns of co-alterations distribution from voxel-based morphological data, this study analyzes the patterns of brain alterations of three important psychiatric spectra-that is, schizophrenia spectrum disorder (SCZD), autistic spectrum disorder (ASD), and obsessive-compulsive spectrum disorder (OCSD). Our analysis provides five important results. First, in SCZD, ASD, and OCSD brain alterations do not distribute randomly but, rather, follow network-like patterns of co-alteration. Second, the clusters of co-altered areas form a net of alterations that can be defined as morphometric co-alteration network or co-atrophy network (in the case of gray matter decreases). Third, within this network certain cerebral areas can be identified as pathoconnectivity hubs, the alteration of which is supposed to enhance the development of neuronal abnormalities. Fourth, within the morphometric co-atrophy network of SCZD, ASD, and OCSD, a subnetwork composed of eleven highly connected nodes can be distinguished. This subnetwork encompasses the anterior insulae, inferior frontal areas, left superior temporal areas, left parahippocampal regions, left thalamus and right precentral gyri. Fifth, the co-altered areas also exhibit a normal structural covariance pattern which overlaps, for some of these areas (like the insulae), the co-alteration pattern. These findings reveal that, similarly to neurodegenerative diseases, psychiatric disorders are characterized by anatomical alterations that distribute according to connectivity constraints so as to form identifiable morphometric co-atrophy patterns.
Keywords: alteration propagation; anatomical covariance; autism spectrum disorder; co-alteration; co-athropy; damage spread; obsessive-compulsive spectrum disorder; pathoconnectivity; schizophrenia spectrum disorder; transdiagnostic approach.
© 2018 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.