Structural abnormalities in language circuits in genetic high-risk subjects and schizophrenia patients

Xiaobo Li, Venkatesh Alapati, Courtney Jackson, Shugao Xia, Hilary C. Bertisch, Craig A. Branch, Lynn E. DeLisi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

36 Scopus citations


Schizophrenia is a severe psychiatric disorder with a strong genetic predisposition. Structural and functional brain deficits throughout the cerebral cortex, particularly in the language-processing associated brain regions, are consistently reported. Recently, increasing evidence from magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) studies suggests that healthy relatives of schizophrenia patients also show structural brain abnormalities in cortical gray matter (GM) volume and thickness, suggesting that this may be associated with an unexpressed genetic liability for the disorder. Unfortunately, the findings are not consistent, which may be caused by different age ranges of the cohorts studied. In the present study, we examined the voxel-based whole brain cortical thickness, area, GM volume densities, and regional cortical thickness-related laterality indices in 14 bilateral regions of interest (ROIs) from known language-processing circuits in 20 schizophrenia patients, 21 young non-psychotic subjects with heightened genetic risk for schizophrenia at the peak ages for development of the disorder, and 48 matched controls. The results showed widespread significant reductions in cortical thickness, cortical GM volume density, and scattered decreases in cortical surface area in the schizophrenia patients compared with those in the high-risk subjects and normal controls. Moreover, the genetic high-risk subjects showed significantly increased regional cortical thickness in 7 of the 14 ROIs in the language-processing pathway when compared with controls. They also had increased GM volume density in scattered regions associated with language-processing when compared with the normal controls. Laterality analyses showed that the spatial distribution of abnormal cortical thickness in the schizophrenia patients, as well as in the high-risk subjects, contributes to a decrease of the normal left-greater-than-right anatomical asymmetry in the inferior orbital frontal area, and a increased left-greater-than-right pattern in the inferior parietal and occipital regions. Together with the existing findings in the literature, the results of the present study suggest that developmental disruption of the anatomical differentiation of the hemispheres provides a basis for understanding the language impairment and symptoms of psychosis, and that these may arise because of abnormal left-right hemispherical communications that interrupt the normal flow of information processing. The early structural deficits in language-processing circuits may precede the appearance of psychotic symptoms and may be an indicator of an increased risk of developing schizophrenia.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)182-189
Number of pages8
JournalPsychiatry Research - Neuroimaging
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 31 2012
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Neuroscience (miscellaneous)
  • Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


  • Genetic high risk
  • Language circuits
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)
  • Schizophrenia
  • Structural abnormality


Dive into the research topics of 'Structural abnormalities in language circuits in genetic high-risk subjects and schizophrenia patients'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this