Thalamus-related anomalies as candidate mechanism-based biomarkers for psychosis

Schizophr Res. 2020 Dec;226:147-157. doi: 10.1016/j.schres.2019.05.027. Epub 2019 May 27.


Identification of reliable biomarkers of prognosis in subjects with high risk to psychosis is an essential step to improve care and treatment of this population of help-seekers. Longitudinal studies highlight some clinical criteria, cognitive deficits, patterns of gray matter alterations and profiles of blood metabolites that provide some levels of prediction regarding the conversion to psychosis. Further effort is warranted to validate these results and implement these types of approaches in clinical settings. Such biomarkers may however fall short in entangling the biological mechanisms underlying the disease progression, an essential step in the development of novel therapies. Circuit-based approaches, which map on well-identified cerebral functions, could meet these needs. Converging evidence indicates that thalamus abnormalities are central to schizophrenia pathophysiology, contributing to clinical symptoms, cognitive and sensory deficits. This review highlights the various thalamus-related anomalies reported in individuals with genetic risks and in the different phases of the disorder, from prodromal to chronic stages. Several anomalies are potent endophenotypes, while others exist in clinical high-risk subjects and worsen in those who convert to full psychosis. Aberrant functional coupling between thalamus and cortex, low glutamate content and readouts from resting EEG carry predictive values for transition to psychosis or functional outcome. In this context, thalamus-related anomalies represent a valuable entry point to tackle circuit-based alterations associated with the emergence of psychosis. This review also proposes that longitudinal surveys of neuroimaging, EEG readouts associated with circuits encompassing the mediodorsal, pulvinar in high-risk individuals could unveil biological mechanisms contributing to this psychiatric disorder.

Keywords: Mediodorsal; Prodrome; Psychosis; Pulvinar; Thalamic reticular nucleus; Thalamus.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Biomarkers
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Psychotic Disorders*
  • Schizophrenia*
  • Thalamus / diagnostic imaging


  • Biomarkers