Schizophrenia is a complex illness characterized by multiple types of symptoms involving many aspects of cognition and emotion. Most efforts to identify its underlying neural substrates have focused on a strategy that relates a single symptom to a single brain region. An alternative hypothesis, that the variety of symptoms could be explained by a lesion in midline neural circuits mediating attention and information processing, is explored. Magnetic resonance images from patients and controls were transformed with a "bounding box" to produce an "average schizophrenic brain" and an "average normal brain." After image subtraction of the two averages, the areas of difference were displayed as an effect size map. Specific regional abnormalities were observed in the thalamus and adjacent white matter. An abnormality in the thalamus and related circuitry explains the diverse symptoms of schizophrenia parsimoniously because they could all result from a defect in filtering or gating sensory input, which is one of the primary functions of the thalamus in the human brain.

Stay Connected to Science