Structural and functional alterations in the brain gray matter among first-degree relatives of schizophrenia patients: A multimodal meta-analysis of fMRI and VBM studies

Schizophr Res. 2020 Feb;216:14-23. doi: 10.1016/j.schres.2019.12.023. Epub 2020 Jan 7.

Abstract

Objective: We conducted a multimodal coordinate-based meta-analysis (CBMA) to investigate structural and functional brain alterations in first-degree relatives of schizophrenia patients (FRs).

Methods: We conducted a systematic literature search from electronic databases to find studies that examined differences between FRs and healthy controls using whole-brain functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) or voxel-based morphometry (VBM). A CBMA of 30 fMRI (754 FRs; 959 controls) and 11 VBM (885 FRs; 775 controls) datasets were conducted using the anisotropic effect-size version of signed differential mapping. Further, we conducted separate meta-analyses about functional alterations in different cognitive tasks: social cognition, executive functioning, working memory, and inhibitory control.

Results: FRs showed higher fMRI activation in the right frontal gyrus during cognitive tasks than healthy controls. In VBM studies, there were no differences in gray matter density between FRs and healthy controls. Furthermore, multi-modal meta-analysis obtained no differences between FRs and healthy controls. By utilizing the BrainMap database, we showed that the brain region which showed functional alterations in FRs (i) overlapped only slightly with the brain regions that were affected in the meta-analysis of schizophrenia patients and (ii) correlated positively with the brain regions that exhibited increased activity during cognitive tasks in healthy individuals.

Conclusions: Based on this meta-analysis, FRs may exhibit only minor functional alterations in the brain during cognitive tasks, and the alterations are much more restricted and only slightly overlapping with the regions that are affected in schizophrenia patients. The familial risk did not relate to structural alterations in the gray matter.

Keywords: Brain activity; Brain structure; Familial risk; Genetic risk; Psychosis; Schizophrenia.

Publication types

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