Brain Structure and Function

, Volume 220, Issue 2, pp 1145–1159 | Cite as

Disrupted brain anatomical connectivity in medication-naïve patients with first-episode schizophrenia

  • Ruibin Zhang
  • Qinling Wei
  • Zhuang Kang
  • Andrew Zalesky
  • Meng Li
  • Yong Xu
  • Leijun Li
  • Junjing Wang
  • Liangrong Zheng
  • Bin Wang
  • Jingping Zhao
  • Jinbei ZhangEmail author
  • Ruiwang HuangEmail author
Original Article


Previous studies suggested that the topological properties of brain anatomical networks may be aberrant in schizophrenia (SCZ), and most of them focused on the chronic and antipsychotic-medicated SCZ patients which may introduce various confounding factors due to antipsychotic medication and duration of illness. To avoid those potential confounders, a desirable approach is to select medication-naïve, first-episode schizophrenia (FE-SCZ) patients. In this study, we acquired diffusion tensor imaging datasets from 30 FE-SCZ patients and 34 age- and gender-matched healthy controls. Taking a distinct gray matter region as a node, inter-regional connectivity as edge and the corresponding streamline counts as edge weight, we constructed whole-brain anatomical networks for both groups, calculated their topological parameters using graph theory, and compared their between-group differences using nonparametric permutation tests. In addition, network-based statistic method was utilized to identify inter-regional connections which were impaired in the FE-SCZ patients. We detected only significantly decreased inter-regional connections in the FE-SCZ patients compared to the controls. These connections were primarily located in the frontal, parietal, occipital, and subcortical regions. Although small-worldness was conserved in the FE-SCZ patients, we found that the network strength and global efficiency as well as the degree were significantly decreased, and shortest path length was significantly increased in the FE-SCZ patients compared to the controls. Most of the regions that showed significantly decreased nodal parameters belonged to the top–down control, sensorimotor, basal ganglia, and limbic-visual system systems. Correlation analysis indicated that the nodal efficiency in the sensorimotor system was negatively correlated with the severity of psychosis symptoms in the FE-SCZ patients. Our results suggest that the network organization is changed in the early stages of the SCZ disease process. Our findings provide useful information for further understanding the brain white matter dysconnectivity of schizophrenia.


Diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) Tractography Networks Robustness Dysconnectivity 



This work was partly supported by the 3rd Affiliated Hospital of Sun Yat-sen University, the funding of National Natural Science Foundation of China (Grant Numbers: 81071149, 81271548, and 81371535), Natural Science Foundation of Guangdong Province (Grant Numbers: S2012010009027), and Scientific Research Foundation for the Returned Overseas Chinese Scholars (RH), State Education Ministry of China. The authors appreciate the editing assistance of Drs. Rhoda E. and Edmund F. Perozzi. The authors also would like to thank the anonymous reviewers for their constructive comments and suggestions.

Conflict of interest

The authors reported no biomedical financial interests or potential of conflicts of interest.

Supplementary material

429_2014_706_MOESM1_ESM.doc (1.5 mb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOC 1517 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Ruibin Zhang
    • 1
  • Qinling Wei
    • 2
    • 3
  • Zhuang Kang
    • 4
  • Andrew Zalesky
    • 5
  • Meng Li
    • 1
  • Yong Xu
    • 1
  • Leijun Li
    • 2
  • Junjing Wang
    • 1
  • Liangrong Zheng
    • 2
  • Bin Wang
    • 1
  • Jingping Zhao
    • 3
  • Jinbei Zhang
    • 2
    Email author
  • Ruiwang Huang
    • 1
    Email author
  1. 1.Brain Imaging Center, Guangdong Key Laboratory of Mental Health and Cognitive Science, Center for the Study of Applied Psychology, School of PsychologySouth China Normal UniversityGuangzhouPeople’s Republic of China
  2. 2.Department of PsychiatryThe Third Affiliated Hospital of Sun Yat-sen UniversityGuangzhouPeople’s Republic of China
  3. 3.Mental Health Institute, The Second Xiangya HospitalCentral South UniversityChangshaPeople’s Republic of China
  4. 4.Department of RadiologyThe Third Affiliated Hospital of Sun Yat-sen UniversityGuangzhouPeople’s Republic of China
  5. 5.Melbourne Neuropsychiatry CentreUniversity of Melbourne and Melbourne HealthMelbourneAustralia

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