Increased diffusivity in gray matter in recent onset schizophrenia is associated with clinical symptoms and social cognition

Lee JS, Kim CY, Joo YH, Newell D, Bouix S, Shenton ME, Kubicki M

Schizophr. Res. 2016 10;176(2-3):144-150

PMID: 27554199


INTRODUCTION: Diffusion weighted MRI (dMRI) is a method sensitive to pathological changes affecting tissue microstructure. Most dMRI studies in schizophrenia, however, have focused solely on white matter. There is a possibility, however, that subtle changes in diffusivity exist in gray matter (GM). Accordingly, we investigated diffusivity in GM in patients with recent onset schizophrenia.

METHODS: We enrolled 45 patients and 21 age and sex-matched healthy controls. All subjects were evaluated using the short form of the Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale, the Positive and Negative Syndrome Scale (PANSS), and the video based social cognition scale. DMRI and T1W images were acquired on a 3 Tesla magnet, and mean Fractional Anisotropy (FA), Trace (TR) and volume were calculated for each of the 68 cortical GM Regions of Interest parcellated using FreeSurfer.

RESULTS: There was no significant difference of FA and GM volume between groups after Bonferroni correction. For the dMRI measures, however, patients evinced increased TR in the left bank of the superior temporal sulcus, the right inferior parietal, the right inferior temporal, and the right middle temporal gyri. In addition, higher TR in the right middle temporal gyrus and the right inferior temporal gyrus, respectively, was associated with decreased social function and higher PANSS score in patients with schizophrenia.

CONCLUSION: This study demonstrates high sensitivity of dMRI to subtle pathology in GM in recent onset schizophrenia, as well as an association between increased diffusivity in temporal GM regions and abnormalities in social cognition and exacerbation of psychiatric symptoms.