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White matter abnormalities in early-onset schizophrenia: a voxel-based diffusion tensor imaging study.

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  • 1Department of Psychiatry Research, The Zucker Hillside Hospital, North Shore-Long Island Jewish Health System, Glen Oaks, NY 11004, USA.



To investigate abnormalities in the structural integrity of brain white matter as suggested by diffusion tensor imaging in adolescents with early-onset schizophrenia (onset of psychosis by age 18).


Twenty-six patients with schizophrenia and 34 age- and gender-matched healthy volunteers received diffusion tensor imaging and structural magnetic resonance imaging examinations. Fractional anisotropy maps were compared between groups in the white matter using a voxelwise analysis after intersubject registration to Talairach space.


Compared with healthy volunteers, patients demonstrated lower fractional anisotropy values in the left anterior cingulate region in close proximity to the caudate nucleus (95% confidence interval of schizophrenic-healthy: -66 to -20). Using regression analysis, the rate of change in fractional anisotropy differed significantly between groups in this region across the age span examined (10-20 years), after adjusting for group differences in premorbid intellectual capacity and parental socioeconomic status. There were no areas of significantly higher fractional anisotropy in patients compared with healthy volunteers.


These data suggest that early-onset schizophrenia is associated with a disruption in the structural integrity of white matter tracts in the anterior cingulate region. These structural abnormalities may contribute to the deficits in motivation, attention, memory, and higher executive functions in adolescents with schizophrenia.

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