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Hum Brain Mapp. 2009 Apr;30(4):1236-45. doi: 10.1002/hbm.20595.

Volumetric and shape analysis of the thalamus in first-episode schizophrenia.

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  • 1The Zucker Hillside Hospital, North Shore - Long Island Jewish Health System, Glen Oaks, New York, USA.


Thalamic abnormalities have been implicated in the pathogenesis of schizophrenia, although the majority of studies used chronic samples treated extensively with antipsychotics. Moreover, the clinical and neuropsychological correlates of these abnormalities remain largely unknown. Using high-resolution MR imaging and novel methods for shape analysis, we investigated thalamic subregions in 35 (25 M/10 F) first-episode schizophrenia patients compared with 33 (23 M/10 F) healthy volunteers. The right and left thalami were traced bilaterally on coronal brain slices and volumes were compared between groups. In addition, regional abnormalities were identified by comparing distances, measured from homologous thalamic surface points to the central core of each individual's surface model, between groups in 3D space. Patients had significantly less total thalamic volume compared with healthy volunteers. Statistical mapping demonstrated most pronounced shape abnormalities in the pulvinar; however, estimated false discovery rates in these regions were sizable. Smaller thalamus volume was significantly correlated with worse overall neuropsychological functioning and specific deficits were observed in the language, motor, and executive domains. There were no significant associations between thalamus volume and positive or negative symptoms. Our findings suggest that thalamic abnormalities are evident at the onset of a first episode of schizophrenia prior to extensive pharmacologic intervention and that these abnormalities have neuropsychological correlates.

2008 Wiley-Liss, Inc.

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