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J Neural Transm (Vienna). 2006 Jul;113(7):907-28. Epub 2005 Oct 27.

Testing models of thalamic dysfunction in schizophrenia using neuroimaging.

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  • 1Schizophrenia and Bipolar Disorder Program, McLean Hospital/Harvard Medical School, Belmont, MA 02478, USA.


Neural models of schizophrenia have implicated the thalamus in deficits of early sensory processing and multimodal integration. We have reviewed the existing neuroimaging literature for evidence in support of models that propose abnormalities of thalamic relay nuclei, the mediodorsal thalamic nucleus, and large-scale cortico-thalamic networks. Thalamic volume reduction was found in some but not all studies. Studies of the early stages of schizophrenia suggest that thalamic volume reduction is present early in the course of the illness. Functional imaging studies have revealed task related abnormalities in several cortical and subcortical areas including the thalamus, suggesting a disruption of distributed thalamocortical networks. Chemical imaging studies have provided evidence for a loss of thalamic neuronal integrity in schizophrenia. There is, at present, inadequate data to support the hypothesis that schizophrenia is associated with abnormalities of sensory relay or association nuclei. There is evidence for a perturbation of cortico-thalamic networks, but further research is needed to elucidate the underlying mechanisms at the cellular and systems levels. The challenges ahead include better delineation of thalamic structure and function in vivo, the combination of genetic and imaging techniques to elucidate the genetic contributions to a thalamic phenotype of schizophrenia, and longitudinal studies of thalamic structure and function.

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