Unraveling schizophrenia’s variable brain structures

Schizophrenia is a multifaceted disorder. It is associated with structural brain variability – which, to this day, we only know little about. Using MRI-based brain measures, the worldwide ENIGMA study of Omlor et al. characterized structural patterns of schizophrenia patients. Their findings aid in identifying illness subtypes and biomarkers, raising hope for better treatments.

In this large-scale study, structural brain measures of several thousand schizophrenia patients were compared with healthy participants. Several brain measures, such as cortical thickness, were more variable in frontotemporal regions (amongst other, responsible for social, psychological and mental performance) in schizophrenia patients. However, schizophrenia patients showed more uniform brain folding in the parahippocampal region (which plays an important role in memory building).

Higher variability in frontotemporal regions may indicate different subtypes of schizophrenia that converge on impaired frontotemporal interaction as a core feature of the disorder. Conversely, more uniform folding patterns in the parahippocampal region may indicate a consistent characteristic of schizophrenia that is shared across subtypes. These findings are relevant for identifying illness subtypes and informative biomarkers in schizophrenia – raising hope for new treatment approaches.


Omlor, W., Rabe, F., Fuchs, S. et al Estimating multimodal brain variability in schizophrenia
spectrum disorders: A worldwide ENIGMA study. bioRxiv (2023)

Image: Brain Figure of the research project