Postmortem structural studies of the thalamus in schizophrenia
In this review, we seek to answer the following question: Do findings in the current literature support the idea that thalamo-cortical dysfunction in schizophrenia is due to structural abnormalities in the thalamus? We base our review on the existing literature of design-unbiased stereological studies of the postmortem thalamus from subjects with schizophrenia. Thus, all reported results are based upon the use of unbiased principles of sampling to determine volume and/or total cell numbers of thalamus or its constituent nuclei. We found 28 such papers covering 26 studies. In a series of tables we list all positive and negative findings from the total thalamus, the mediodorsal, pulvinar and anterior nuclei, as well as less frequently studied thalamic regions. Only four studies examined the entire thalamus and the results were inconsistent. We found largely consistent evidence for structural changes (reduced volume and cell numbers) in the pulvinar located in the posterior thalamus. In contrast, findings in the mediodorsal thalamic nucleus are inconsistent, with the largest and most recent studies generally failing to support earlier reports of a lower number of neurons in schizophrenia. Thus, the current findings of stereological studies of the thalamus in schizophrenia support the idea that thalamo-cortical dysfunction in schizophrenia might be attributable, at least in part, to structural alterations in the pulvinar that could impair thalamic inputs to higher order cortical association areas in the frontal and parietal lobes. However, more studies are needed before robust conclusions can be drawn.
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