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Neuropsychopharmacology. 2017 Jan;42(2):495-501. doi: 10.1038/npp.2016.130. Epub 2016 Jul 21.

Changes in White Matter Organization in Adolescent Offspring of Schizophrenia Patients.

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Brain Center Rudolf Magnus, Department of Psychiatry, University Medical Center Utrecht, Utrecht, The Netherlands.
Departments of Experimental and Developmental Psychology, Faculty of Social Sciences, Utrecht University, Utrecht, The Netherlands.


Schizophrenia is associated with frontostriatal network impairments underlying clinical and cognitive symptoms. We previously found disruptions in anatomical pathways, including the tract connecting the left nucleus accumbens and left dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC). Similar deficits are observed in unaffected siblings of schizophrenia patients, indicating that these deficits are linked to a genetic vulnerability for the disorder. Frontostriatal tract disruptions may arise during adolescence, preceding the clinical manifestation of the disorder. However, to date, no studies have been performed to investigate frontostriatal tract connections in adolescents who are at increased familial risk for schizophrenia. In this study, we investigate the impact of familial risk on frontostriatal tract connections using diffusion tensor imaging in 27 adolescent offspring of schizophrenia patients and 32 matched control adolescents, aged 10-18 years. Mean fractional anisotropy (FA) was calculated for the tracts connecting the striatum (caudate nucleus, putamen, nucleus accumbens) and frontal cortex regions (DLPFC, medial orbital frontal cortex, inferior frontal gyrus). As expected, based on siblings data, we found an impact of familial risk on frontostriatal development: schizophrenia offspring showed increased FA in the tracts connecting nucleus accumbens and DLPFC as compared with control adolescents. Moreover, while FA increased across age in control adolescents, it did not in schizophrenia offspring. We did not find differences in FA in other frontostriatal tracts. These results indicate altered development of white matter in subjects who are at familial risk for schizophrenia and may precede frontostriatal white matter alterations in adult schizophrenia patients and siblings.

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