Gray and white matter brain changes have been found in schizophrenia but the anatomical organizing process underlying these changes remains unknown. We aimed to identify gray and white matter volumetric changes in a group of patients with schizophrenia and to quantify the distribution of white matter tract changes using a novel approach which applied three complementary analyses to diffusion imaging data.
21 patients with schizophrenia and 21 matched control subjects underwent brain magnetic resonance imaging. Gray and white matter volume differences were investigated using Voxel-based Morphometry (VBM). White matter diffusion changes were located using Tract Based Spatial Statistics (TBSS) and quantified within a standard atlas. Tracts where significant regional differences were located were examined using fiber tractography.
No significant differences in gray or white matter volumetry were found between the two groups. Using TBSS the schizophrenia group showed significantly lower fractional anisotropy (FA) compared to the controls in regions (false discovery rate <0.05) including the genu, body and splenium of the corpus callosum and the left anterior limb of the internal capsule (ALIC). Using fiber tractography, FA was significantly lower in schizophrenia in the corpus callosum genu (p = 0.003).
In schizophrenia, white matter diffusion deficits are prominent in medial frontal regions. These changes are consistent with the results of previous studies which have detected white matter changes in these areas. The pathology of schizophrenia may preferentially affect the prefrontal-thalamic white matter circuits traversing these regions.