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Biol Psychiatry. 2004 Jul 1;56(1):41-5.

Altered thalamic membrane phospholipids in schizophrenia: a postmortem study.

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  • 1Department of Psychiatry, Central Institute of Mental Health, Mannheim, Germany.



Membrane lipids are important mediators of neuronal function. In a postmortem study, we measured membrane lipid components in the left thalamus of schizophrenic patients. This region might play an important role in the pathophysiology of schizophrenia and has not been studied thus far with respect to its membrane lipid composition.


The study included 18 chronic schizophrenic patients and 23 healthy control subjects. Using lipid extraction and thin-layer chromatography, we measured membrane phospholipids, galactocerebrosides 1 and 2, and sulfatides in thalamus homogenate.


The main membrane phospholipid phosphatidylcholine and the major myelin membrane components sphingomyelin and galactocerebrosides 1 and 2 were found to be decreased in schizophrenic patients. In contrast, phosphatidylserine was increased. These lipid contents did not correlate with postmortem intervals and medication doses. There was no difference in the membrane phospholipids lysophosphatidylcholine, phosphatidylethanolamine, phosphatidylinositol, and phosphatidylglycerol or in sulfatides.


Our results confirm findings of magnetic resonance imaging, postmortem, and gene expression studies. They support the notion of an increased phospholipid breakdown in schizophrenia as a sign for decreased myelination and oligodendrocyte dysfunction.

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