Diffusion tensor imaging, structural connectivity, and schizophrenia

Whitford TJ, Kubicki M, Shenton ME

Schizophr Res Treatment 2011;2011:709523

PMID: 22937272


A fundamental tenet of the “disconnectivity” theories of schizophrenia is that the disorder is ultimately caused by abnormal communication between spatially disparate brain structures. Given that the white matter fasciculi represent the primary infrastructure for long distance communication in the brain, abnormalities in these fiber bundles have been implicated in the etiology of schizophrenia. Diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) is a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) technique that enables the visualization of white matter macrostructure in vivo, and which has provided unprecedented insight into the existence and nature of white matter abnormalities in schizophrenia. The paper begins with an overview of DTI and more commonly used diffusion metrics and moves on to a brief review of the schizophrenia literature. The functional implications of white matter abnormalities are considered, particularly with respect to myelin’s role in modulating the transmission velocity of neural discharges. The paper concludes with a speculative hypothesis about the relationship between gray and white matter abnormalities associated with schizophrenia.