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J Psychiatr Res. 2003 Nov-Dec;37(6):539-47.

Total length of nerve fibers in prefrontal and global white matter of chronic schizophrenics.

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Research Laboratory for Stereology and Neuroscience, Bispebjerg Hospital, Bispebjerg Bakke 23, 2400 Copenhagen N, Copenhagen, Denmark.


It has been suggested that the dysfunction of the prefrontal cortex in schizophrenics is due to dysfunctional connections between the prefrontal cortex and more posterior structures. The present study uses a recent stereological method that allows quantitation of the myelinated nerve fibers in the brain white matter. As especially the prefrontal region is of interest in schizophrenics, the prefrontal white matter was quantitated separately. The total length of nerve fibers in post-mortem brains was estimated from eight male chronic schizophrenics and nine male controls (age-range: 40-81 years). Samples were taken systematically and randomly from both the entire white matter and selectively from the prefrontal white matter. The biopsies were rotated randomly before sectioning to avoid bias due to the anisotropic nature of nerve fibers. The fibers were counted at light microscopic level at about 10,000 x magnification and the fiber diameter of each counted fiber was measured to get the size distribution of the fibers. The schizophrenics had a total of 129,000 km myelinated fibers in the white matter and 25,700 km in the prefrontal white matter, which was non-significantly different from a total of 137,000 km in the entire white matter and 27,600 km in the prefrontal white matter in controls. The size distribution of the fibers in schizophrenics was within normal limits compared to controls. Our results do not show a larger loss of nerve fibers in neither the white matter globally or in the prefrontal white matter of schizophrenics.

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