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Auditory verbal hallucinations (AVH) are a cardinal feature of schizophrenia, but they can also appear in otherwise healthy individuals. Imaging studies implicate language networks in the generation of AVH; however, it remains unclear if alterations reflect biologic substrates of AVH, irrespective of diagnostic status, age, or illness-related factors. We applied multimodal imaging to identify AVH-specific pathology, evidenced by overlapping gray or white matter deficits between schizophrenia patients and healthy voice-hearers.
Diffusion-weighted and T1-weighted magnetic resonance images were acquired in 35 schizophrenia patients with AVH (SCZ-AVH), 32 healthy voice-hearers (H-AVH), and 40 age- and sex-matched controls without AVH. White matter fractional anisotropy (FA) and gray matter thickness (GMT) were computed for each region comprising ICBM-DTI and Desikan–Killiany atlases, respectively. Regions were tested for significant alterations affecting both SCZ-AVH and H-AVH groups, relative to controls.
Compared with controls, the SCZ-AVH showed widespread FA and GMT reductions; but no significant differences emerged between H-AVH and control groups. While no overlapping pathology appeared in the overall study groups, younger (<40 years) H-AVH and SCZ-AVH subjects displayed overlapping FA deficits across four regions (p < 0.05): the genu and splenium of the corpus callosum, as well as the anterior limbs of the internal capsule. Analyzing these regions with free-water imaging ascribed overlapping FA abnormalities to tissue-specific anisotropy changes.
We identified white matter pathology associated with the presence of AVH, independent of diagnostic status. However, commonalities were constrained to younger and more homogenous groups, after reducing pathologic variance associated with advancing age and chronicity effects.
Decline in cognitive functioning precedes the first psychotic episode in the course of schizophrenia and is considered a hallmark symptom of the disorder. Given the low incidence of schizophrenia, it remains a challenge to investigate whether cognitive decline coincides with disease-related changes in brain structure, such as white matter abnormalities. The 22q11.2 deletion syndrome (22q11DS) is an appealing model in this context, as 25% of patients develop psychosis. Furthermore, we recently showed that cognitive decline also precedes the onset of psychosis in individuals with 22q11DS. Here, we investigate whether the early cognitive decline in patients with 22q11DS is associated with alterations in white matter microstructure.
We compared the fractional anisotropy (FA) of white matter in 22q11DS patients with cognitive decline [n = 16; −18.34 (15.8) VIQ percentile points over 6.80 (2.39) years] to 22q11DS patients without cognitive decline [n = 18; 17.71 (20.17) VIQ percentile points over 5.27 (2.03) years] by applying an atlas-based approach to diffusion-weighted imaging data.
FA was significantly increased (p < 0.05, FDR) in 22q11DS patients with a cognitive decline in the bilateral superior longitudinal fasciculus, the bilateral cingulum bundle, all subcomponents of the left internal capsule and the left superior frontal-occipital fasciculus as compared with 22q11DS patients without cognitive decline.
Within 22q11DS, the early cognitive decline is associated with microstructural differences in white matter. At the mean age of 17.8 years, these changes are reflected in increased FA in several tracts. We hypothesize that similar brain alterations associated with cognitive decline take place early in the trajectory of schizophrenia.
In previous functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) studies, participants with schizophrenia showed decreased language lateralisation, resulting from increased activation of the right hemisphere compared with controls.
To determine whether decreased lateralisation and increased right cerebral language activation constitute genetic predispositions for schizophrenia.
Language activation was measured using fMRI in 12 right-handed monozygotic twin pairs discordant for schizophrenia and 12 healthy right-handed monozygotic twin pairs who were matched for gender, age and education.
Language lateralisation was decreased in discordant twin pairs compared with the healthy twin pairs. The groups did not differ in activation of the language-related areas of the left hemisphere, but language-related activation in the right hemisphere was significantly higher in the discordant twin pairs than in the healthy pairs. Within the discordant twin pairs, language lateralisation was not significantly different between patients with schizophrenia and their co-twins.
Decreased language lateralisation may constitute a genetic predisposition for schizophrenia.
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