Previous studies in schizophrenia revealed abnormalities in the cortico-cerebellar-thalamo-cortical circuit (CCTCC) pathway, suggesting the necessity for defining thalamic subdivisions in understanding alterations of brain connectivity.
To parcellate the thalamus into several subdivisions using a data-driven method, and to evaluate the role of each subdivision in the alterations of CCTCC functional connectivity in patients with schizophrenia.
There were 54 patients with schizophrenia and 42 healthy controls included in this study. First, the thalamic structural and functional connections computed, based on diffusion magnetic resonance imaging (MRI, white matter tractography) and resting-state functional MRI, were clustered to parcellate thalamus. Next, functional connectivity of each thalamus subdivision was investigated, and the alterations in thalamic functional connectivity for patients with schizophrenia were inspected.
Based on the data-driven parcellation method, six thalamic subdivisions were defined. Loss of connectivity was observed between several thalamic subdivisions (superior-anterior, ventromedial and dorsolateral part of the thalamus) and the sensorimotor system, anterior cingulate cortex and cerebellum in patients with schizophrenia. A gradual pattern of dysconnectivity was observed across the thalamic subdivisions. Additionally, the altered connectivity negatively correlated with symptom scores and duration of illness in individuals with schizophrenia.
The findings of the study revealed a wide range of thalamic functional dysconnectivity in the CCTCC pathway, increasing our understanding of the relationship between the CCTCC pathway and symptoms associated with schizophrenia, and further indicating a potential alteration pattern in the thalamic nuclei in people with schizophrenia.
Declaration of interest