Anatomical brain connectivity and positive symptoms of schizophrenia: a diffusion tensor imaging study
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Structural brain changes in schizophrenia are well documented in the neuroimaging literature. The classical morphometric analyses of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) data have recently been supplemented by diffusion tensor imaging (DTI), which mainly assesses changes in white matter (WM). DTI increasingly provides evidence for abnormal anatomical connectivity in schizophrenia, most often using fractional anisotropy (FA) as an indicator of the integrity of WM tracts. To better understand the clinical significance of such anatomical changes, we studied FA values in a whole-brain analysis comparing paranoid schizophrenic patients with a history of auditory hallucinations and matched healthy controls. The relationship of WM changes to psychopathology was assessed by correlating FA values with PANSS scores (positive symptoms and severity of auditory hallucinations) and with illness duration. Schizophrenic patients showed FA reductions indicating WM integrity disturbance in the prefrontal regions, external capsule, pyramidal tract, occipitofrontal fasciculus, superior and inferior longitudinal fasciculi, and corpus callosum. The arcuate fasciculus was the only tract which showed increased FA values in patients. Increased FA values in this region correlated with increased severity of auditory hallucinations and length of illness. Our results suggest that local changes in anatomical integrity of WM tracts in schizophrenia may be related to patients' clinical presentation.