Primary visual cortex volume and total neuron number are reduced in schizophrenia

Authors

  • Karl-Anton Dorph-Petersen,

    1. Department of Psychiatry, University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania 15213
    2. Center for Basic Psychiatric Research, Aarhus Psychiatric University Hospital, DK-8240 Risskov, Denmark
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  • Joseph N. Pierri,

    1. Department of Psychiatry, University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania 15213
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  • Qiang Wu,

    1. Department of Statistics, University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania 15213
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  • Allan R. Sampson,

    1. Department of Statistics, University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania 15213
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  • David A. Lewis

    Corresponding author
    1. Department of Psychiatry, University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania 15213
    2. Department of Neuroscience, University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania 15213
    • Department of Psychiatry, University of Pittsburgh, 3811 O-Hara St., W1651 BST, Pittsburgh, PA 15213
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Abstract

A number of studies that assessed the visual system in subjects with schizophrenia found impairments in early visual processing. Furthermore, functional imaging studies suggested changes in primary visual cortex activity in subjects with schizophrenia. Interestingly, postmortem studies of subjects with schizophrenia reported an increased density of neurons in the primary visual cortex (Brodmann's area 17, BA17). The observed changes in visual processing may thus be reflected in structural changes in the circuitry of BA17. To characterize the structural changes further we used stereological methods based on unbiased principles of sampling (Cavalieri's principle and the optical fractionator) to estimate the total volume and neuron number of BA17 in postmortem brains from 10 subjects with schizophrenia and 10 matched normal comparison subjects. In addition, we assessed cortical thickness. We found a marked and significant reduction in total neuron number (25%) and volume (22%) of BA17 in the schizophrenia group relative to the normal comparison subjects. In contrast, we found no changes in neuronal density or cortical thickness between the two groups. Subjects with schizophrenia therefore have a smaller cortical area allocated to primary visual perception. This finding suggests the existence of a schizophrenia-related change in cortical parcellation. J. Comp. Neurol. 501:290–301, 2007. © 2007 Wiley-Liss, Inc.

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