Featured Finding Figure
A number of studies that assessed the visual system in subjects with schizophrenia found impairments in early visual processing. Furthermore, functional imaging studies suggested changes in primary visual cortex activity in subjects with schizophrenia. Interestingly, postmortem studies of subjects with schizophrenia reported an increased density of neurons in the primary visual cortex (Brodmann's area 17, BA17). The observed changes in visual processing may thus be reflected in structural changes in the circuitry of BA17. To characterize the structural changes further, we used stereological methods based upon unbiased principles of sampling (Cavalieri's principle and the optical fractionator; panels A-D) to estimate the total volume and neuron number of BA17 in postmortem brains from 10 subjects with schizophrenia and 10 matched normal comparison subjects. In addition, we assessed cortical thickness. We found a marked and significant reduction in total neuron number (25%; panel E) and volume (22%; panel F) of BA17 in the schizophrenia group relative to the normal comparison subjects. In contrast, we found no changes in neuronal density (panel G) or cortical thickness between the two groups. Subjects with schizophrenia therefore have a smaller cortical area allocated to primary visual perception. This finding suggests the existence of a schizophrenia-related change in cortical parcellation.
Dorph-Petersen K-A, Pierri JN, Wu Q, Sampson AR, Lewis DA: Primary visual cortex volume and total neuron number are reduced in schizophrenia. J Comp Neurol 501: 290-301, 2007.

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David A. Lewis, M.D. | Department of Psychiatry | University of Pittsburgh
3811 O'Hara Street, Biomedical Science Tower W1654
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania 15213-2593
Phone: (412) 624-3894 - Fax: (412) 624-9910