Decreased bilateral thalamic gray matter volume in first-episode schizophrenia with prominent hallucinatory symptoms: A volumetric MRI study.

Studies comparing gray matter (GM) volume of schizophrenic patients with or without auditory verbal hallucinations (AVHs) to that of normal controls remain controversial. This project aims to investigate changes of GM volumes of drug-naïve schizophrenic patients with and without AVHs. Eighteen first episode schizophrenic (FES) patients with AVHs, 18 FES patients without AVHs, and 18 healthy controls were scanned using structural MRI. Voxel-based morphometry (VBM) analysis was conducted to investigate changes of GM volume among the three groups. Patients with and without AVHs exhibited reduced GM volumes relative to normal controls in the left superior temporal gyrus, frontal regions, cerebellum and caudate. Further analysis of the GM of subcortical structures found that patients with AVHs had reduced thalamic volume than healthy controls. No significant difference was found between patients with and without AVHs. Significant correlation was found between the total scores of the Positive and Negative Syndrome Scale and bilateral thalamic volume. ROC analysis of thalamic volumes of the patients with AVHs and normal controls showed that the area under the curve was 0.698 (P = 0.043). The decreased thalamic volumes might serve as a biomarker for discriminating FES AVHs patients from normals.

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