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A structural MRI study of motor conversion disorder: evidence of reduction in thalamic volume
  1. T R Nicholson1,
  2. S Aybek1,
  3. M J Kempton2,
  4. E M Daly3,
  5. D G Murphy3,
  6. A S David1,
  7. R A Kanaan4
  1. 1Section of Cognitive Neuropsychiatry, Institute of Psychiatry, King's College London, London, UK
  2. 2Department of Neuroimaging, Institute of Psychiatry, King's College London, London, UK
  3. 3Department of Forensic and Neurodevelopmental Science, Institute of Psychiatry, King's College London, London, UK
  4. 4Department of Psychiatry, University of Melbourne, Austin Hospital, Melbourne, Australia
  1. Correspondence to Dr Tim Nicholson, Section Cognitive Neuropsychiatry, PO Box 68, Institute of Psychiatry, Denmark Hill,
    London SE5 8AF, UK; timothy.nicholson{at}


Objective To investigate potential abnormalities in subcortical brain structures in conversion disorder (CD) compared with controls using a region of interest (ROI) approach.

Methods Fourteen patients with motor CD were compared with 31 healthy controls using high-resolution MRI scans with an ROI approach focusing on the basal ganglia, thalamus and amygdala. Brain volumes were measured using Freesurfer, a validated segmentation algorithm.

Results Significantly smaller left thalamic volumes were found in patients compared with controls when corrected for intracranial volume. These reductions did not vary with handedness, laterality, duration or severity of symptoms.

Conclusions These differences may reflect a primary disease process in this area or be secondary effects of the disorder, for example, resulting from limb disuse. Larger, longitudinal structural imaging studies will be required to confirm the findings and explore whether they are primary or secondary to CD.

  • MRI

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