Whether aberrant cerebral blood flow (CBF) in schizophrenia is affected by genetic influences, and consequently a potential marker for genetic susceptibility, is unknown. Our aims were to determine the heritability of CBF in thalamic, frontal, and striatal areas, and to ascertain if associations with disease were under genetic influence. Monozygotic (MZ) twin pairs concordant (n = 2) or discordant (n = 20) for schizophrenia spectrum disorders (ICD-10 F2x.x), matched on sex and age with dizygotic (DZ; n = 20) and healthy control pairs (MZ: n = 27; DZ: n = 18; total: n = 181 individuals), were recruited via the National Danish Twin Register. CBF in thalamus, frontal lobes, and putamen was measured with pseudo-continuous arterial spin labeling on a 3 T magnetic resonance scanner. Twin statistics were performed with structural equation modeling. CBF in the frontal lobes was heritable (h 2 = 0.44, 95% CI [0.22-0.60]) but not correlated to disease. CBF correlated to schizophrenia spectrum disorders in the left thalamus (r = 0.17, [0.03-0.31]; P = 0.02), as well as in the left putamen (r = 0.19, [0.05-0.32]; P = 0.007) and the right putamen (r = 0.18, [0.03-0.32]; P = 0.02). When restricting the sample to schizophrenia (F20.x) only, shared genetic influences between CBF in the left putamen and schizophrenia liability (phenotypic correlation = 0.44, [0.28-0.58], P < 0.001) were found. Our results provide heritability estimates of CBF in the frontal lobes, and we find CBF in thalamus and putamen to be altered in schizophrenia spectrum disorders. Furthermore, shared genetic factors influence schizophrenia liability and striatal perfusion. Specifically, higher perfusion in the left putamen may constitute a marker of genetic susceptibility for schizophrenia.

Original languageEnglish
Article number6
JournalSchizophrenia Bulletin
Issue number6
Pages (from-to)1231-1241
Number of pages11
Publication statusPublished - 24 Oct 2019


  • cerebral blood flow
  • genes
  • pCASL
  • relatives
  • twins


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