Velocardiofacial Syndrome (VCFS) - A Genetic Model for Schizophrenia
The Schizophrenia DBP, led by Dr. Marek Kubicki at Harvard Medical School, concerns the nature and anatomy of brain changes associated with schizophrenia and the genetically related VCFS, both believed to be neurodevelopmental disorders. Patients with VCFS have a deletion in chromosome 22. VCSF shares in common with schizophrenia several specific genes. VCFS also is the most important prognostic factor in schizophrenia hereditability, since 30% of patients with VCFS will eventually develop a psychosis. Dr. Kubicki has acquired a dataset of brain scans from patients with schizophrenia and VCSF. He is using VCSF as a model for schizophrenia by comparing similarities and differences in the anatomical connections between the language centers of the human brain. The language centers are the most functionally affected domains in schizophrenia. These comparisons require tools and methods beyond the capabilities of standard imaging technologies, but attainable through NA-MIC algorithms and methodologies (Structural MRI (sMRI), Functional MRI (fMRI), Diffusion Tensor Imaging (DTI)). The tools developed for this dataset over the past several years have enabled the delineation and measurement of white matter connections individually, both in schizophrenia and in VCFS. The results of these studies have reinforced the notion that white matter changes in schizophrenia are widespread and neurodevelopmental in origin. On the basis of this research, improved algorithms for early prediction, detection, and treatment of schizophrenia should be forthcoming.