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J Neurosci. 2010 Nov 24;30(47):15915-26. doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.2874-10.2010.

Aberrant frontal and temporal complex network structure in schizophrenia: a graph theoretical analysis.

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Department of Psychiatry, University Medical Center Utrecht, 3508 GA Utrecht, The Netherlands.


Brain regions are not independent. They are interconnected by white matter tracts, together forming one integrative complex network. The topology of this network is crucial for efficient information integration between brain regions. Here, we demonstrate that schizophrenia involves an aberrant topology of the structural infrastructure of the brain network. Using graph theoretical analysis, complex structural brain networks of 40 schizophrenia patients and 40 human healthy controls were examined. Diffusion tensor imaging was used to reconstruct the white matter connections of the brain network, with the strength of the connections defined as the level of myelination of the tracts as measured through means of magnetization transfer ratio magnetic resonance imaging. Patients displayed a preserved overall small-world network organization, but focusing on specific brain regions and their capacity to communicate with other regions of the brain revealed significantly longer node-specific path lengths (higher L) of frontal and temporal regions, especially of bilateral inferior/superior frontal cortex and temporal pole regions. These findings suggest that schizophrenia impacts global network connectivity of frontal and temporal brain regions. Furthermore, frontal hubs of patients showed a significant reduction of betweenness centrality, suggesting a less central hub role of these regions in the overall network structure. Together, our findings suggest that schizophrenia patients have a less strongly globally integrated structural brain network with a reduced central role for key frontal hubs, resulting in a limited structural capacity to integrate information across brain regions.

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