The role of altered brain structural connectivity in resilience, vulnerability, and disease expression to schizophrenia

UMMS Affiliation

Department of Psychiatry

Publication Date


Document Type



Mental and Social Health | Neuroscience and Neurobiology | Psychiatry | Psychiatry and Psychology


BACKGROUND: Schizophrenia (SCZ) is a highly heritable disorder associated with brain connectivity changes. Although the mechanism of disease expression and vulnerability of SCZ have been reported by previous studies, the mechanism of resilience to SCZ based on the brain structural connectivity is poorly understood. The goal of the present study was to identify the structural brain connectivity related with the resilience to SCZ, which is defined here as the capacity to avoid or delay the onset of SCZ in unaffected siblings of SCZ probands.

METHOD: We collected diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) data of 49 medication-naive, first-episode SCZ (FE-SCZ) patients, 56 unaffected siblings of SCZ probands (SIB-SCZ), and 90 healthy controls. Then we used graph theoretical approach to calculate the topological properties of the brain structural network, including global, subnetwork, and regional parameters. Finally, we compared the parameters between the three groups, and identified the brain structural network related to the resilience, vulnerability and disease expression to SCZ.

RESULTS: With respect to resilience, only the SIB-SCZ showed significantly increased connectivity in the subnetworks of the left cuneus-precuneus and left posterior cingulate gyrus-precuneus, and in brain areas of right supramarginal gyrus and right inferior temporal gyrus. With respect to vulnerability, both the FE-SCZ and SIB-SCZ had decreased cluster coefficients and local efficiency, and decreased nodal efficiency in the right medial superior frontal gyrus and right medial orbital superior frontal gyrus compared with the healthy controls. With respect to disease expression, only the FE-SCZ group showed decreased or increased global, subnetwork, and nodal connectivity in broader brain regions compared with the healthy controls.

CONCLUSION: Difference in the topological properties of brain structural connectivity not only reflect the underlying mechanism of vulnerability but also that of resilience to schizophrenia. Alteration in the brain structural connectivity associating with resilience and disease expression may contribute to the onset of SCZ.


Diffusion tensor imaging, Resilience, Schizophrenia, Unaffected siblings, Vulnerability

DOI of Published Version



Wei Q, Zhao L, Zou Y, Wang J, Qiu Y, Niu M, Kang Z, Liu X, Tang Y, Li C, Zhang J, Fan X, Huang R, Han Z. The role of altered brain structural connectivity in resilience, vulnerability, and disease expression to schizophrenia. Prog Neuropsychopharmacol Biol Psychiatry. 2020 Mar 10;101:109917. doi: 10.1016/j.pnpbp.2020.109917. Epub ahead of print. PMID: 32169560. Link to article on publisher's site

Journal/Book/Conference Title

Progress in neuro-psychopharmacology and biological psychiatry

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