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Structural Brain Abnormalities Linked to Schizophrenia

Structural Brain Abnormalities Linked to Schizophrenia

A collaborative international study has discovered that individuals diagnosed with schizophrenia often have smaller brain regions than people without mental illness.

The finding provides a clue into how the condition may develop and respond to treatment.

In the study, scientists at more than a dozen locations across the United States and Europe analyzed brain MRI scans from 2,028 schizophrenia patients and 2,540 healthy controls.

The findings, which experts believe will help to advance improved understanding of the mental disorder, appear in the journal Molecular Psychiatry.

The work was the product of the Enhancing Neuroimaging Genetics through Meta-Analysis project (ENIGMA), from the Schizophrenia Working Group. The Group is co-chaired by Dr. Jessica Turner, associate professor of psychology and neuroscience at Georgia State University, and Dr. Theo van Erp, assistant research professor in psychiatry at the University of California, Irvine.

“This is the largest structural brain meta-analysis to date in schizophrenia, and specifically, it is not a meta-analysis pulled only from the literature,” said Turner.

“Investigators dug into their desk drawers, including unpublished data to participate in these analyses. Everyone performed the same analyses using the same statistical models, and we combined the results. We then identified brain regions that differentiated patients from controls and ranked them according to their effect sizes.”

The team found individuals with schizophrenia have smaller volume in the hippocampus, amygdala, thalamus, nucleus accumbens, and intracranial space than controls, and larger pallidum and ventricle volumes.

The study demonstrates that collaborative data analyses can be used across brain phenotypes and disorders. This approach encourages analysis and data-sharing efforts to further understanding of severe mental illness.

The ENIGMA collaborations include working groups for other disorders such as bipolar disorder, attention deficit, major depression, autism and addictions, who are all doing these same analyses.

Researchers say the next step is to compare the effects across disorders, to identify which brain region is the most affected in which disorder, and to determine the effects of age, medication, environment, and symptom profiles across these disorders.

“There’s the increased possibility, not just because of the massive data sets, but also because of the collaborative brain power being applied here from around the world, that we will find something real and reliable that will change how we think about these disorders and what we can do about them,” Turner said.

Source: Georgia State University/EurekAlert

Structural Brain Abnormalities Linked to Schizophrenia

Rick Nauert PhD

Rick Nauert, PhDDr. Rick Nauert has over 25 years experience in clinical, administrative and academic healthcare. He is currently an associate professor for Rocky Mountain University of Health Professionals doctoral program in health promotion and wellness. Dr. Nauert began his career as a clinical physical therapist and served as a regional manager for a publicly traded multidisciplinary rehabilitation agency for 12 years. He has masters degrees in health-fitness management and healthcare administration and a doctoral degree from The University of Texas at Austin focused on health care informatics, health administration, health education and health policy. His research efforts included the area of telehealth with a specialty in disease management.

APA Reference
Nauert PhD, R. (2018). Structural Brain Abnormalities Linked to Schizophrenia. Psych Central. Retrieved on September 29, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 Aug 2018 (Originally: 8 Jul 2015)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Aug 2018
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