White Matter Disruptions in Schizophrenia Are Spatially Widespread and Topologically Converge on Brain Network Hubs

Paul Klauser, Simon T. Baker, Vanessa L. Cropley, Chad Bousman, Alex Fornito, Luca Cocchi, Janice M. Fullerton, Paul Rasser, Ulrich Schall, Frans Henskens, Patricia T. Michie, Carmel Loughland, Stanley V. Catts, Bryan J Mowry, Thomas W. Weickert, Cynthia Shannon Weickert, Vaughan Carr, Rhoshel Lenroot, Christos Pantelis, Andrew Zalesky

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White matter abnormalities associated with schizophrenia have been widely reported, although the consistency of findings across studies is moderate. In this study, neuroimaging was used to investigate white matter pathology and its impact on whole-brain white matter connectivity in one of the largest samples of patients with schizophrenia. Fractional anisotropy (FA) and mean diffusivity (MD) were compared between patients with schizophrenia or schizoaffective disorder (n = 326) and age-matched healthy controls (n = 197). Between-group differences in FA and MD were assessed using voxel-based analysis and permutation testing. Automated whole-brain white matter fiber tracking and the network-based statistic were used to characterize the impact of white matter pathology on the connectome and its rich club. Significant reductions in FA associated with schizophrenia were widespread, encompassing more than 40% (234ml) of cerebral white matter by volume and involving all cerebral lobes. Significant increases in MD were also widespread and distributed similarly. The corpus callosum, cingulum, and thalamic radiations exhibited the most extensive pathology according to effect size. More than 50% of cortico-cortical and cortico-subcortical white matter fiber bundles comprising the connectome were disrupted in schizophrenia. Connections between hub regions comprising the rich club were disproportionately affected. Pathology did not differ between patients with schizophrenia and schizoaffective disorder and was not mediated by medication. In conclusion, although connectivity between cerebral hubs is most extensively disturbed in schizophrenia, white matter pathology is widespread, affecting all cerebral lobes and the cerebellum, leading to disruptions in the majority of the brain's fiber bundles.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)425-435
Number of pages11
JournalSchizophrenia Bulletin
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2017


  • diffusion tensor imaging
  • fractional anisotropy
  • magnetic resonance imaging
  • mean diffusivity
  • rich club
  • schizophrenia
  • tractography
  • white matter

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