Prefrontal neuronal integrity predicts symptoms and cognition in schizophrenia and is sensitive to genetic heterogeneity

Dolores Malaspina, Thorsten M. Kranz, Adriana Heguy, Sheila Harroch, Robert Mazgaj, Karen Rothman, Adam Berns, Sumya Hasan, Daniel Antonius, Raymond Goetz, Mariana Lazar, Moses V. Chao, Oded Gonen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


Schizophrenia is a genetically complex syndrome with substantial inter-subject variability in multiple domains. Person-specific measures to resolve its heterogeneity could focus on the variability in prefrontal integrity, which this study indexed as relative rostralization within the anterior cingulate cortex (ACC). Twenty-two schizophrenia cases and 11 controls underwent rigorous diagnostic procedures, symptom assessments (PANSS, Deficit Syndrome Scale) and intelligence testing. All underwent multivoxel MRSI at 3 T to measure concentrations of the neuronal-specific biomarker N-acetylaspartate (NAA) in all of the voxels of the ACC. The concentrations of NAA were separately calculated and then compared across the rostral and caudal subregions to generate a rostralization ratio, which was examined with respect to the study measures and to which cases carried a missense coding polymorphism in PTPRG, SCL39A13, TGM5, NTRK1 or ARMS/KIDINS220. Rostralization significantly differed between cases and controls (χ2 = 18.40, p <.0001). In cases, it predicted verbal intelligence (r =.469, p =.043) and trait negative symptoms (diminished emotional range (r = -.624, p =.010); curbed interests, r = -.558, p =.025). Rostralization was similar to controls for missense coding variants in TGM5 and was significantly greater than controls for the PTPRG variant carrier. This is the first study examining the utility of MRS metrics in describing pathological features at both group and person-specific levels. Rostralization predicted core illness features and differed based on which signaling genes were disrupted. While future studies in larger populations are needed, ACC rostralization appears to be a promising measure to reduce the heterogeneity of schizophrenia for genetic research and selecting cases for treatment studies.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)94-100
Number of pages7
JournalSchizophrenia Research
Issue number1-3
StatePublished - 1 Apr 2016
Externally publishedYes


  • Anterior cingulate cortex
  • Genotype
  • Magnetic resonance spectroscopy imaging
  • N-acetylaspartate
  • Rostralization
  • Schizophrenia


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