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Voxel-based morphometry versus region of interest: a comparison of two methods for analyzing gray matter differences in schizophrenia.

Giuliani NR, Calhoun VD, Pearlson GD, Francis A, Buchanan RW
Schizophrenia research


Many previous studies exploring cortical gray matter (GM) differences in schizophrenia have used "region of interest" (ROI) measurements to manually delineate GM volumes. Recently, some investigators have instead employed voxel-based morphometry (VBM), an automated whole-brain magnetic resonance image measurement technique. The purpose of the current study was to compare the above methods in calculating GM distributions in schizophrenia patients relative to matched controls. Using ROIs, Buchanan et al. (Buchanan, R.W., Francis, A., Arango, C., Miller, K., Lefkowitz, D.M., McMahon, R.P., Barta, P.E. and Pearlson, G.D., 2004. Morphometric assessment of the heteromodal association cortex in schizophrenia. Am J Psychiatry. 161 (2), 322-331.) found decreased dorsolateral prefrontal GM volume and altered symmetry of inferior parietal GM in schizophrenia patients. We hypothesized that VBM analyses of the same data would complement the ROI findings. As predicted, VBM analyses replicated results of less left inferior and right superior frontal cortical GM in schizophrenia. Additionally, VBM uncovered a significantly lower concentration of GM in the middle and superior temporal gyri, sought but not detected using ROIs, but did not replicate the parietal changes. The principal explanation for these differences may be the methodological differences between voxel-averaged, landmark-based ROI analyses and the single, voxel-by-voxel whole brain VBM measurements. Although VBM is rapid and fully automated, it is not a replacement for manual ROI-based analyses. Both methods provide different types of information and should thus be used in tandem.

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