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Psychol Med. 2016 Jul;46(10):2201-14. doi: 10.1017/S0033291716000994. Epub 2016 May 26.

Dynamic cerebral reorganization in the pathophysiology of schizophrenia: a MRI-derived cortical thickness study.

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Key Laboratory of High Performance Computing and Stochastic Information Processing (Ministry of Education of China),College of Mathematics and Computer Science,Hunan Normal University,Changsha,People's Republic of China.
Division of Psychiatry & Applied Psychology,Centre for Translational Neuroimaging in Mental Health,Institute of Mental Health,University of Nottingham,Nottingham,UK.
Department of Computer Science,University of Warwick,Coventry,UK.



A structural neuroanatomical change indicating a reduction in brain tissue is a notable feature of schizophrenia. Several pathophysiological processes such as aberrant cortical maturation, progressive tissue loss and compensatory tissue increase could contribute to the structural changes seen in schizophrenia.


We studied cortical thickness using surface-based morphometry in 98 clinically stable patients with schizophrenia and 83 controls. Using a pattern classification approach, we studied whether the features that discriminate patients from controls vary across the different stages of the illness. Using a covariance analysis, we also investigated if concurrent increases accompany decreases in cortical thickness.


Very high levels of accuracy (96.3%), specificity (98.8%) and sensitivity (88%) were noted when classifying patients with <2 years of illness from controls. Within the patient group, reduced thickness was consistently accompanied by increased thickness in distributed brain regions. A pattern of cortical amelioration or normalization (i.e. reduced deviation from controls) was noted with increasing illness duration. While temporo-limbic and fronto-parietal regions showed reduced thickness, the occipital cortex showed increased thickness, especially in those with a long-standing illness.


A compensatory remodelling process might contribute to the cortical thickness variations in different stages of schizophrenia. Subtle cerebral reorganization reflecting the inherent plasticity of brain may occur concomitantly with processes contributing to tissue reduction in adult patients with schizophrenia.


Compensation; cortical thickness; covariance; pattern classification; schizophrenia; support vector machine

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