The Paradoxical Relationship Between White Matter, Psychopathology and Cognition in Schizophrenia: A Diffusion Tensor and Proton Spectroscopic Imaging Study. Academic Article uri icon


  • White matter disruption has been repeatedly documented in schizophrenia consistent with microstructural disorganization (reduced fractional anisotropy, FA) and axonal dysfunction (reduced N-acetylaspartate NAAc). However, the clinical significance of these abnormalities is poorly understood. Diffusion tensor and proton spectroscopic imaging where used to assess FA, axial (AD) and radial diffusivity (RD), and supra-ventricular white matter NAAc respectively, in 64 schizophrenia and 64 healthy subjects. Schizophrenia patients had reduced FA across several regions, with additional regions where FA correlated positively with positive symptoms severity. These regions included genu, body and splenium of corpus callosum, anterior and superior corona radiata, superior longitudinal and inferior fronto-occipital fasciculi and internal capsule. The FA/symptoms relationships corresponded with opposite correlations between RD and positive symptoms. The schizophrenia group had progressively reduced NAAc with age, and NAAc correlated negatively with positive symptoms. Cognition correlated positively with both FA and NAAc in controls, while in the schizophrenia group it had a negative correlation with NAAc and no significant relationship with FA. Antipsychotic dose did not account for the results. Correlates of psychosis, cognitive and negative symptoms can be found in white matter. The significant correlations between positive symptoms in schizophrenia and diffusion and NAAc measures suggest decreased axonal density with increased glial cells and higher myelination in this subpopulation. A separate set of abnormal relationships between cognition and FA/RD as well as with NAAc, converge to suggest that in schizophrenia, white matter microstructure supports the two core illness domains: psychosis and cognitive/negative symptoms.Neuropsychopharmacology accepted article preview online, 18 March 2015. doi:10.1038/npp.2015.72.

publication date

  • March 2015