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Int J Psychophysiol. 1999 Dec;34(3):197-205.

Cerebral volume asymmetries in schizophrenia and mood disorders: a quantitative magnetic resonance imaging study.

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  • 1Hillside Hospital Division of North Shore-Long Island Jewish Health System, Glen Oaks, NY 11004, USA.


Multiple abnormalities of brain structure have been identified in schizophrenia using in vivo neuroimaging methods, but little is known about the diagnostic specificity of these abnormalities. In a prior study of first-episode schizophrenia we found that this group lacked the normal pattern of cerebral volume asymmetries. Data from that study were combined with data from groups of patients with more chronic schizophrenia, and with bipolar and unipolar mood disorders, to determine the specificity of this abnormality to diagnostic subgroups defined by syndromal status or chronicity. The total sample comprised 235 patients (67 healthy volunteers, 81 patients with mood disorders or schizoaffective disorders, and 87 with schizophrenia or schizophreniform disorders). Asymmetries of regional cerebral volumes were measured on coronal magnetic resonance images with 3.1-mm contiguous slices and nominal in-plane resolution of 1 mm x 1 mm. Asymmetries differed significantly across groups in the occipitoparietal, prefrontal, and temporal regions. These asymmetries, and a composite index of asymmetry across regions ('torque'), all showed the same diagnostic group effect, with the schizophrenia group showing the least normal asymmetry, the mood disorder group intermediate asymmetry, and the control group the most marked asymmetry. No other diagnostic subgroup or chronicity effects were apparent. The findings support a 'continuum' rather than a 'diagnostic specificity' hypothesis, and suggest that the reduction of normal hemispheric asymmetries may mark a neurodevelopmental risk factor for major mental illnesses, and that some syndromal characteristics may be correlated with the degree of deviation from the normal anatomic pattern.

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