Disruptions in white matter microstructure associated with impaired visual associative memory in schizophrenia-spectrum illness

Eur Arch Psychiatry Clin Neurosci. 2022 Sep;272(6):971-983. doi: 10.1007/s00406-021-01333-0. Epub 2021 Sep 24.


Episodic memory ability relies on hippocampal-prefrontal connectivity. However, few studies have examined relationships between memory performance and white matter (WM) microstructure in hippocampal-prefrontal pathways in schizophrenia-spectrum disorder (SSDs). Here, we investigated these relationships in individuals with first-episode psychosis (FEP) and chronic schizophrenia-spectrum disorders (SSDs) using tractography analysis designed to interrogate the microstructure of WM tracts in the hippocampal-prefrontal pathway. Measures of WM microstructure (fractional anisotropy [FA], radial diffusivity [RD], and axial diffusivity [AD]) were obtained for 47 individuals with chronic SSDs, 28 FEP individuals, 52 older healthy controls, and 27 younger healthy controls. Tractography analysis was performed between the hippocampus and three targets involved in hippocampal-prefrontal connectivity (thalamus, amygdala, nucleus accumbens). Measures of WM microstructure were then examined in relation to episodic memory performance separately across each group. Both those with FEP and chronic SSDs demonstrated impaired episodic memory performance. However, abnormal WM microstructure was only observed in individuals with chronic SSDs. Abnormal WM microstructure in the hippocampal-thalamic pathway in the right hemisphere was associated with poorer memory performance in individuals with chronic SSDs. These findings suggest that disruptions in WM microstructure in the hippocampal-prefrontal pathway may contribute to memory impairments in individuals with chronic SSDs but not FEP.

Keywords: Hippocampus; Memory; Schizophrenia; Tractography; Visuospatial associative memory; White matter.

MeSH terms

  • Anisotropy
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Diffusion Tensor Imaging
  • Hippocampus / physiology
  • Humans
  • Memory Disorders / diagnostic imaging
  • Memory Disorders / etiology
  • Memory, Episodic*
  • Prefrontal Cortex / physiology
  • Psychotic Disorders / complications*
  • Psychotic Disorders / diagnostic imaging
  • Schizophrenia / complications*
  • Schizophrenia / diagnostic imaging
  • White Matter / diagnostic imaging
  • White Matter / physiology*