Background: Diffusion tensor imaging is a neuroimaging method that quantifies white matter (WM) integrity and brain connectivity based on the diffusion of water in the brain. White matter has been hypothesized to be of great importance in the development of schizophrenia as part of the dysconnectivity model. Childhood-onset schizophrenia (COS), is a rare, severe form of the illness that resembles poor outcome adult-onset schizophrenia. We hypothesized that COS would be associated with WM abnormalities relative to a sample of controls. Methods: To evaluate WM integrity in this population 39 patients diagnosed with COS, 39 of their healthy (nonpsychotic) siblings, and 50 unrelated healthy volunteers were scanned using a diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) sequence during a 1.5 T MRI acquisition. Each DTI scan was processed via atlas-based analysis using a WM parcellation map, and diffeomorphic mapping that shapes a template atlas to each individual subject space. Fractional anisotropy (FA), a measure of WM integrity was averaged over each of the 46 regions of the atlas. Eleven WM regions were examined based on previous reports of WM growth abnormalities in COS. Results: Of those regions, patients with COS, and their healthy siblings had significantly lower mean FA in the left and right cuneus as compared to the healthy volunteers (P < .005). Together, these findings represent the largest DTI study in COS to date, and provide evidence that WM integrity is significantly impaired in COS. Shared deficits in their healthy siblings might result from increased genetic risk.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Psychiatry and Mental health