Brain Subtyping Enhances The Neuroanatomical Discrimination of Schizophrenia

Schizophr Bull. 2018 Aug 20;44(5):1060-1069. doi: 10.1093/schbul/sby008.


Identifying distinctive subtypes of schizophrenia could ultimately enhance diagnostic and prognostic accuracy. We aimed to uncover neuroanatomical subtypes of chronic schizophrenia patients to test whether stratification can enhance computer-aided discrimination of patients from control subjects. Unsupervised, data-driven clustering of structural MRI (sMRI) data was used to identify 2 subtypes of schizophrenia patients drawn from a US-based open science repository (n = 71) and we quantified classification improvements compared to controls (n = 74) using supervised machine learning. We externally validated the unsupervised and supervised learning models in a heterogeneous German validation sample (n = 316), and characterized symptom, cognition, and longitudinal symptom change signatures. Stratification improved classification accuracies from 68.5% to 73% (subgroup 1) and 78.8% (subgroup 2), respectively. Increased accuracy was also found when models were externally validated, and an average gain of 9% was found in supplementary analyses. The first subgroup was associated with cortical and subcortical volume reductions coupled with substantially longer illness duration, whereas the second subgroup was mainly characterized by cortical reductions, reduced illness duration, and comparatively less negative symptoms. Individuals within each subgroup could be identified using just 10 clinical questions at an accuracy of 81.2%, and differential cognitive and symptom course signatures were suggested in multivariate analyses. Our findings suggest that sMRI-based subtyping enhances the neuroanatomical discrimination of schizophrenia by identifying generalizable brain patterns that align with a clinical staging model of the disorder. These findings could be used to improve illness stratification for biomarker-based computer-aided diagnoses.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Brain / diagnostic imaging
  • Brain / pathology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Image Processing, Computer-Assisted / methods*
  • Machine Learning*
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging / methods*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Schizophrenia / classification
  • Schizophrenia / diagnostic imaging
  • Schizophrenia / pathology*
  • Schizophrenia / physiopathology*
  • Young Adult