Thalamic Nuclei Volumes in Psychotic Disorders and in Youths With Psychosis Spectrum Symptoms.

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Thalamus models of psychosis implicate association nuclei in the pathogenesis of psychosis and mechanisms of cognitive impairment. Studies to date have provided conflicting findings for structural deficits specific to these nuclei. The authors sought to characterize thalamic structural abnormalities in psychosis and a neurodevelopmental cohort, and to determine whether nuclear volumes were associated with cognitive function.Thalamic nuclei volumes were tested in a cross-sectional sample of 472 adults (293 with psychosis) and the Philadelphia Neurodevelopmental Cohort (PNC), consisting of 1,393 youths (398 with psychosis spectrum symptoms and 609 with other psychopathologies), using a recently developed, validated method for segmenting thalamic nuclei and complementary voxel-based morphometry. Cognitive function was measured with the Screen for Cognitive Impairment in Psychiatry in the psychosis cohort and the Penn Computerized Neurocognitive Battery in the PNC.The psychosis group had smaller pulvinar, mediodorsal, and, to a lesser extent, ventrolateral nuclei volumes compared with the healthy control group. Youths with psychosis spectrum symptoms also had smaller pulvinar volumes, compared with both typically developing youths and youths with other psychopathologies. Pulvinar volumes were positively correlated with general cognitive function.The study findings demonstrate that smaller thalamic association nuclei represent a neurodevelopmental abnormality associated with psychosis, risk for psychosis in youths, and cognitive impairment. Identifying specific thalamic nuclei abnormalities in psychosis has implications for early detection of psychosis risk and treatment of cognitive impairment in psychosis.

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