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A new role for oligodendrocytes and myelination in schizophrenia and affective disorders?

Eur Arch Psychiatry Clin Neurosci. 2019 Jun;269(4):371-372. doi: 10.1007/s00406-019-01019-8.

Authors/Editors: Schmitt A, Simons M, Cantuti-Castelvetri L, Falkai P.
Publication Date: 2019


An important part of human brain development is myelination of axons and development of white matter, which occurs at a high rate in the first years of childhood and continues until young adulthood. Myelination is dependent on proper oligodendrocyte function at all stages of development. Consequently, oligodendrocyte dysfunction leads to disturbances in myelination and connectivity and—on the functional level—also to cognitive deficits. In a diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) study, oligodendrocyte-related gene variants, such as myelin-associated glycoprotein (MAG), were related to white matter tract integrity and cognitive performance in SZ patients. Interestingly, a single nucleotide polymorphism of the oligodendrocyte transcription factor Olig2, which is necessary for maturation of oligodendrocyte precursor cells (OPCs), has also been associated with reduced white matter fractional anisotropy in schizophrenia. Several meta-analyses of voxel-based DTI studies revealed reduced fractional anisotropy as a measure of deficits in fiber density and myelination in left frontal and temporal lobe white matter in patients with schizophrenia and affective disorders. Using high-immersion oil microscopy, Williams et al. detected decreased myelin cross-sectional area per axon in the splenium of patients with major depression.

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