Introduction: Structural brain connectivity abnormalities have been associated with several psychiatric disorders. Schizophrenia (SCZ) is a chronic disabling disorder associated with accelerated aging and increased risk of dementia, though brain findings in the disorder have rarely been directly compared to those that occur with aging. Methods: We used an automated approach to reconstruct key white matter tracts and assessed tract integrity in five participant groups. We acquired one-hour-long high-directional diffusion MRI data from young control (CON, n =28), bipolar disorder (BPD, n =21), and SCZ (n =22) participants aged 18-30, and healthy elderly (ELD, n =15) and dementia (DEM, n =9) participants. Volume, fractional (FA), radial diffusivity (RD) and axial diffusivity (AD) of seven key white matter tracts (anterior thalamic radiation, ATR; dorsal and ventral cingulum bundle, CBD and CBV; corticospinal tract, CST; and the three superior longitudinal fasciculi: SLF-1, SLF-2 and SLF-3) were analyzed with TRACULA. Group comparisons in tract metrics were performed using multivariate and univariate analyses. Clinical relationships of tract metrics with recent and chronic symptoms were assessed in SCZ and BPD participants. Results: A MANOVA showed group differences in FA (λ=0.5; p=0.0002) and RD (λ=0.35; p<0.0001) across the seven tracts, but no significant differences in tract AD and volume. Post-hoc analyses indicated lower tract FA and higher RD in ELD and DEM groups compared to CON, BPD and SCZ groups. Lower FA and higher RD in SCZ compared to CON did not meet statistical significance. In SCZ participants, a significant negative correlation was found between chronic psychosis severity and FA in the SLF-1 (r= -0.45; p=0.035), SLF-2 (r= -0.49; p=0.02) and SLF-3 (r= -0.44; p=0.042). Discussion: Our results indicate impaired white matter tract integrity in elderly populations consistent with myelin damage. Impaired tract integrity in SCZ is most prominent in patients with advanced illness.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1240502
JournalFrontiers in Psychiatry
StatePublished - 2024


  • bipolar disorder
  • brain
  • connectivity
  • dementia
  • diffusion
  • schizophrenia


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