Fractional anisotropy and radial diffusivity: diffusion measures of white matter abnormalities in the anterior limb of the internal capsule in schizophrenia

Levitt JJ, Alvarado JL, Nestor PG, Rosow L, Pelavin PE, McCarley RW, Kubicki M, Shenton ME

Schizophr. Res. 2012 Apr;136(1-3):55-62

PMID: 22019073


INTRODUCTION: Higher cognitive functioning is mediated by frontal-subcortical cognitive and limbic feedback sub-loops. The thalamo-cortical projection through the anterior limb of the internal capsule (ALIC) serves as the final step in these feedback sub-loops. We evaluated abnormalities in the ALIC fiber tract in schizophrenia using both structural MRI and diffusion tensor imaging (DTI).

METHODS: 20 chronic schizophrenia patients and 22 male, normal controls group matched for handedness, age, and parental SES, underwent structural and DTI brain imaging on a 1.5 Tesla GE system. We manually measured ALIC volume normalized for intracranial contents (ICC) using structural brain images and then registered these high resolution structural brain scan derived ALIC label maps to DTI space allowing for the measurement in the ALIC of diffusion indices including, fractional anisotropy (FA) mean diffusivity (MD), radial diffusivity (RD), and axial diffusivity (AD).

RESULTS: We found in the ALIC of chronic schizophrenia subjects, compared with normal controls, bilaterally lower FA and bilaterally higher RD, but no differences in AD, MD, or relative volume. Cognitive correlations in schizophrenia patients showed, in particular, that higher left ALIC FA correlated positively with better verbal and nonverbal declarative/episodic memory performance.

DISCUSSION: Using a novel approach to assess both diffusion and volume measures in the ALIC in schizophrenia, we found abnormalities in measures of diffusion, but not volume, supporting their importance as sensitive indices of abnormalities in white matter fiber bundles in schizophrenia. Our findings also support the role of ALIC white matter tract FA abnormalities in declarative/episodic memory in schizophrenia.