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Neuroimage. 2009 Oct 1;47(4):1163-71. doi: 10.1016/j.neuroimage.2009.04.027. Epub 2009 Apr 16.

Combined analyses of thalamic volume, shape and white matter integrity in first-episode schizophrenia.

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Division of Bioengineering, National University of Singapore, Singapore.


The thalamus has been considered to be integral to the pathophysiology of schizophrenia. To determine whether its anatomical abnormalities may be associated with cognitive deficits in the onset of schizophrenia, we assessed thalamic volume, shape, white matter integrity, and their correlations with cognition in patients with first-episode schizophrenia. T1-weighted magnetic resonance and diffusion tensor (DT) images were collected in 49 healthy comparison controls (CON) and 32 patients with FES (FES). Large deformation diffeomorphic metric mapping (LDDMM) algorithms were used to delineate and assess the thalamic shape from MRI scans. The thalamic white matter integrity was quantified by fractional anisotropy (FA) and mean diffusivity (MD) averaged over the thalamus using DTI. Our analysis revealed that FES did not differ from CON in FA and MD but did differ markedly from them in the thalamic volume and shape. Patients with FES also performed poorly in spatial working memory and executive tasks. The correlation study found that regional thalamic shapes highly correlate with the two cognitive scores in the entire sample and healthy comparison controls but not in patients with FES even though no correlation was found between the thalamic volumes with the two cognitive scores in any group. Left thalamic FA was correlated with spatial working memory deficits in FES. Our findings suggest that thalamic volume and shape abnormalities are evident at the onset of FES prior to thalamic abnormal white matter integrity. Altered microstructural white matter integrity assessed using DTI may not be apparent in FES but may be observed as the disease progresses. Cognitive deficits related to spatial working memory and executive functioning in FES were observed in the context of loss of their normal relationship with the thalamic shapes, that is, regionally-specific thalamic shape compression is associated with poor performance in executive functioning and spatial working memory.

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