Insular volume reduction in schizophrenia

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Abstract

Structural and functional abnormalities of the insular cortex have been reported in patients with schizophrenia. Most studies have shown that the insular volumes in schizophrenia patients are smaller than those of healthy people. As the insular cortex is functio-anatomically divided into anterior and posterior subdivisons, recent research is focused on uncovering a specific subdivisional abnormality of the insula in patients with schizophrenia. A recent ROI-based volumetric MRI study demonstrated specific left anterior insular volume reduction in chronic schizophrenia patients (Makris N, Goldstein J, Kennedy D, Hodge S, Caviness V, Faraone S, Tsuang M, Seidman L (2006) Decreased volume of left and total anterior insular lobule in schizophrenia. Schizophr Res 83:155–171). On the other hand, our VBM-based volumetric study revealed a reduction in right posterior insular volume (Yamada M, Hirao K, Namiki C, Hanakawa T, Fukuyama H, Hayashi T, Murai T (2007) Social cognition and frontal lobe pathology in schizophrenia: a voxel-based morphometric study. NeuroImage 35:292–298). In order to address these controversial results, ROI-based subdivisional volumetry was performed using the MRI images from the same population we analyzed in our previous VBM-study. The sample group comprised 20 schizophrenia patients and 20 matched healthy controls. Patients with schizophrenia showed a global reduction in insular gray matter volumes relative to healthy comparison subjects. In a simple comparison of the volumes of each subdivision between the groups, a statistically significant volume reduction in patients with schizophrenia was demonstrated only in the right posterior insula. This study suggests that insular abnormalities in schizophrenia would include anterior as well as posterior parts. Each subdivisional abnormality may impact on different aspects of the pathophysiology and psychopathology of schizophrenia; these relationships should be the focus of future research.