Progressive deterioration of thalamic nuclei relates to cortical network decline in schizophrenia
Thalamic abnormalities are considered part of the complex pathophysiology of schizophrenia, particularly the involvement of specific thalamic nuclei. The goals of this study were to: introduce a novel atlas-based parcellation scheme for defining various thalamic nuclei; compare their integrity in a schizophrenia sample against healthy individuals at baseline and follow-up time points, as well as rates of change over time; examine relationships between the nuclei and abnormalities in known connected cortical regions; and finally, to determine if schizophrenia-related thalamic nuclei changes relate to cognitive functioning and clinical symptoms. Subjects were from a larger longitudinal 2-year follow-up study, schizophrenia (n=20) and healthy individuals (n=20) were group-matched for age, gender, and recent-alcohol use. We used high-dimensional brain mapping to obtain thalamic morphology, and applied a novel atlas-based method for delineating anterior, mediodorsal, and pulvinar nuclei. Results from cross sectional GLMs revealed group differences in bilateral mediodorsal and anterior nuclei, while longitudinal models revealed significant group-by-time interactions for the mediodorsal and pulvinar nuclei. Cortical correlations were the strongest for the pulvinar in frontal, temporal and parietal regions, followed by the mediodorsal nucleus in frontal regions, but none in the anterior nucleus. Thalamic measures did not correlate with cognitive and clinical scores at any time point or longitudinally. Overall, findings revealed a pattern of persistent progressive abnormalities in thalamic nuclei that relate to advancing cortical decline in schizophrenia, but not with measures of behavior.
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