Reduced subcortical brain volumes in nonpsychotic siblings of schizophrenic patients: a pilot magnetic resonance imaging study

Seidman LJ, Faraone SV, Goldstein JM, Goodman JM, Kremen WS, Matsuda G, Hoge EA, Kennedy D, Makris N, Caviness VS, Tsuang MT

Am. J. Med. Genet. 1997 Sep;74(5):507-14

PMID: 9342202


Substantial evidence suggests that nonpsychotic relatives of schizophrenia patients manifest subtle abnormalities in communication, eye movements, event-related potentials, and neuropsychological processes of attention, reasoning, and memory. We sought to determine whether adult relatives without psychosis or schizophrenia spectrum diagnoses might also have structural brain abnormalities, particularly in subcortical regions found to be impaired in patients with schizophrenia itself. Subjects were six sisters of schizophrenic patients and eleven normal female controls. Sixty contiguous 3 mm coronal, T1-weighted 3D magnetic resonance images (MRI) of the entire brain were acquired on a 1.5 Tesla magnet. Cortical and subcortical gray and white matter was segmented using a semiautomated intensity contour mapping algorithm. Volumes were adjusted for total brain volumes. Adjusted gray matter subcortical volumes were significantly smaller in relatives than in controls in total hippocampus, right amygdala, right putamen, left thalamus, and brainstem. Relatives had significantly enlarged left and total inferior lateral ventricles. These results, though preliminary, suggest that some never-psychotic relatives of schizophrenic patients have abnormal brain structure. If replicated in a larger sample including both sexes, these results would suggest that the genetic liability to schizophrenia is also expressed as structural brain abnormalities.