Lack of normal pattern of cerebral asymmetry in familial schizophrenic patients and their relatives - The Maudsley Family Study

Tonmoy Sharma, Eric Lancaster, Thordur Sigmundsson, Shôn Lewis, Noriyoshi Takei, Hugh Gurling, Patrick Barta, Godfrey Pearlson, Robin Murray

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Lack of the normal cerebral asymmetry has been reported in schizophrenia. We wished to test the hypothesis that this lack of the normal pattern of asymmetry is familial and that it can be found in both schizophrenic and non-schizophrenic family members. In particular, we wanted to know whether those relatives who appear to be transmitting liability to the illness also demonstrate the loss of normal asymmetry. We studied families with several members affected with schizophrenia. We carried out volumetric measurements of prefrontal, premotor, sensorimotor and occipitoparietal regions in each hemisphere using 3D reconstructed MRI images in 29 schizophrenic patients, 55 of their first degree relatives, and 39 unrelated control subjects on contiguous thin slices of the brain. Nine of the unaffected relatives appeared to be transmitting the liability for schizophrenia (e.g. the mother of a schizophrenic patient who, although not psychotic herself, had a schizophrenic parent or sibling). We termed them presumed obligate carriers and the remaining 46 relatives presumed non-obligate carriers. The healthy control subjects showed larger right than left prefrontal regions and larger left than right sensorimotor and occipitoparietal regions. The schizophrenic patients showed lack of this normal brain asymmetry in the prefrontal, sensorimotor and occipitoparietal cortical regions. The presumed obligate carriers were similar to the schizophrenic patients in exhibiting lack of asymmetries in these cortical regions, while the presumed non-obligate relatives showed lack of asymmetry only in the occipitoparietal region. There was no overall reduction in total or regional brain volumes among the groups. Our findings indicate that lack of the normal pattern of frontal and occipital asymmetry is a marker for genetic liability to schizophrenia in families multiply affected with schizophrenia. 1999 Elsevier Science B.V. All rights reserved.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)111-120
Number of pages10
JournalSchizophrenia Research
Issue number2
StatePublished - Nov 30 1999



  • Cerebral asymmetry
  • Familial
  • Genetic
  • Magnetic resonance imaging
  • Schizophrenia

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Biological Psychiatry

Cite this