Grey matter volume patterns in thalamic nuclei are associated with familial risk for schizophrenia

Giulio Pergola, Silvestro Trizio, Pasquale Di Carlo, Paolo Taurisano, Marina Mancini, Nicola Amoroso, Maria Antonietta Nettis, Ileana Andriola, Grazia Caforio, Teresa Popolizio, Antonio Rampino, Annabella Di Giorgio, Alessandro Bertolino, Giuseppe Blasi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Previous evidence suggests reduced thalamic grey matter volume (GMV) in patients with schizophrenia (SCZ). However, it is not considered an intermediate phenotype for schizophrenia, possibly because previous studies did not assess the contribution of individual thalamic nuclei and employed univariate statistics. Here, we hypothesized that multivariate statistics would reveal an association of GMV in different thalamic nuclei with familial risk for schizophrenia. We also hypothesized that accounting for the heterogeneity of thalamic GMV in healthy controls would improve the detection of subjects at familial risk for the disorder.We acquired MRI scans for 96 clinically stable SCZ, 55 non-affected siblings of patients with schizophrenia (SIB), and 249 HC. The thalamus was parceled into seven regions of interest (ROIs). After a canonical univariate analysis, we used GMV estimates of thalamic ROIs, together with total thalamic GMV and premorbid intelligence, as features in Random Forests to classify HC, SIB, and SCZ. Then, we computed a Misclassification Index for each individual and tested the improvement in SIB detection after excluding a subsample of HC misclassified as patients.Random Forests discriminated SCZ from HC (accuracy. =81%) and SIB from HC (accuracy. =75%). Left anteromedial thalamic volumes were significantly associated with both multivariate classifications (p . <. 0.05). Excluding HC misclassified as SCZ improved greatly HC vs. SIB classification (Cohen's . d=1.39). These findings suggest that multivariate statistics identify a familial background associated with thalamic GMV reduction in SCZ. They also suggest the relevance of inter-individual variability of GMV patterns for the discrimination of individuals at familial risk for the disorder.

Original languageEnglish
JournalSchizophrenia Research
Publication statusAccepted/In press - Feb 19 2016


  • Familial risk for schizophrenia
  • Grey matter
  • Multivariate pattern analysis
  • Thalamus
  • VBM

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Biological Psychiatry


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