Alexithymia and reduced white matter integrity in schizophrenia: a diffusion tensor imaging study on impaired emotional self-awareness

Manabu Kubota, Jun Miyata, Akihiko Sasamoto, Ryosaku Kawada, Shinsuke Fujimoto, Yusuke Tanaka, Nobukatsu Sawamoto, Hidenao Fukuyama, Hidehiko Takahashi, Toshiya Murai
Schizophrenia Research 2012, 141 (2-3): 137-43
Alexithymia is characterized by deficits in emotional self-awareness. A number of previous studies have revealed impaired emotional self-awareness in schizophrenia. Although the pathology of schizophrenia is thought to involve disrupted white matter integrity, its relationship with alexithymia remains unclear. The present study investigated associations between alexithymia and white matter integrity, to seek the neural basis of impaired emotional self-awareness in schizophrenia. Forty-four patients with schizophrenia and 44 age-, gender- and predicted IQ level-matched healthy controls underwent diffusion-weighted imaging. Alexithymia was assessed using the 20-item Toronto Alexithymia Scale (TAS-20). We applied tract-based spatial statistics to investigate the correlation between the TAS-20 total score and white matter fractional anisotropy (FA). TAS-20 scores were significantly higher in patients than in controls. In the patient group only, FA was negatively correlated with the TAS-20 total score in the corpus callosum, mostly the left part of the superior and inferior longitudinal fasciculi, the inferior occipito-frontal fasciculus, the anterior and posterior thalamic radiation, and the precuneus white matter. These results suggest that schizophrenia is associated with alexithymia, and that reduced white matter integrity within these regions constitutes an important pathology underlying impaired self-emotional awareness in schizophrenia.

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