Association between Psychotic Symptoms and Cortical Thickness Reduction across the Schizophrenia Spectrum

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The current study provides a complete magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) analysis of thickness throughout the cerebral cortical mantle in patients with schizophrenia (SZ) and rigorously screened and matched unaffected relatives and controls and an assessment of its relation to psychopathology and subjective cognitive function. We analyzed 3D-anatomical MRI data sets, obtained at 3 T, from 3 different subject groups: 25 SZ patients, 29 first-degree relatives, and 37 healthy control subjects. We computed whole-brain cortical thickness using the Freesurfer software and assessed group differences. We also acquired clinical and psychometric data. The results showed markedly reduced cortical thickness in SZ patients compared with controls, most notably in the frontal and temporal lobes, in the superior parietal lobe and several limbic areas, with intermediate levels of cortical thickness in relatives. In both patients and relatives, we found an association between subjective cognitive dysfunction and reduced thickness of frontal cortex, and predisposition toward hallucinations and reduced thickness of the superior temporal gyrus. Our findings suggest that changes in specific cortical areas may predispose to specific symptoms, as exemplified by the association between temporal cortex thinning and hallucinations.

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