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Schizophr Res. 2006 Apr;83(2-3):155-71. Epub 2006 Jan 31.

Decreased volume of left and total anterior insular lobule in schizophrenia.

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Athinoula A. Martinos Center, Harvard Medical School Department of Neurology, Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, MA 02129, United States.


The insula is anatomically situated to be critically involved in many bio-behavioral functions impaired in schizophrenia. Furthermore, its total volume has been shown to be reduced in schizophrenia. In the present study, we tested the hypothesis that in schizophrenia it is the anterior insular lobule (aINS(lbl)) rather than the posterior insular lobule (pINS(lbl)) that is smaller, given that limbic system abnormalities are central in schizophrenia and that the affiliations of the limbic system are principally with the anterior insular lobule. We used T1-weighted high resolution magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to measure the cortical volume of the left and right anterior and posterior insular subdivisions. The subjects included a sample of healthy community controls (N=40) and chronic patients with DSM-III-R schizophrenia (N=41). We correlated insula volumes with positive and negative symptoms. We found that the total aINS(lbl), and the left aINS(lbl) in particular, were significantly volumetrically smaller in schizophrenia compared to controls, and significantly correlated with bizarre behavior. Given that the anterior insular lobule offers anatomic features that allow for MRI-based morphometric analysis, namely its central and circular sulci, this brain structure provides a useful model to test hypotheses regarding genotype-phenotype relationships in schizophrenia using the anterior insular lobule as a candidate endophenotype.

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