BACKGROUND: The amygdala plays a central role in the fronto-limbic network involved in the processing of emotions. Structural and functional abnormalities of the amygdala have recently been found in schizophrenia, although there are still contradictory results about its reduced or preserved volumes.MethodIn order to address these contradictory findings and to further elucidate the possibly underlying pathophysiological process of the amygdala, we employed structural magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and diffusion weighted imaging (DWI), exploring amygdalar volume and microstructural changes in 69 patients with schizophrenia and 72 matched healthy subjects, relating these indices to psychopathological measures. RESULTS: Measuring water diffusivity, the apparent diffusion coefficients (ADCs) for the right amygdala were found to be significantly greater in patients with schizophrenia compared with healthy controls, with a trend for abnormally reduced volumes. Also, significant correlations between mood symptoms and amygdalar volumes were found in schizophrenia. CONCLUSIONS: We therefore provide evidence that schizophrenia is associated with disrupted tissue organization of the right amygdala, despite partially preserved size, which may ultimately lead to abnormal emotional processing in schizophrenia. This result confirms the major role of the amygdala in the pathophysiology of schizophrenia and is discussed with respect to amygdalar structural and functional abnormalities found in patients suffering from this illness.
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