Background. In a recent longitudinal study of first-episode schizophrenia patients, we found that while dysfunction of the right dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC), right thalamus, left cerebellum and cingulate gyrus normalized with antipsychotic treatment and significant reduction in symptomatology, the left DLPFC, left thalamus, and right cerebellum remained disturbed. In the present study we investigated whether these abnormalities are also present in clinically stable, relatively well-functioning schizophrenia patients in comparison to control subjects during performance of the N-back working-memory task.
Method. Twelve schizophrenia and 12 control subjects completed the study. The functional images collected during scanning were analyzed using a random-effects model in a restricted set of six regions of interest (ROIs). In addition, the exploratory search in the entire brain volume was performed.
Results. The ROI analyses revealed relative underactivation in the region of the left DLPFC and the right cerebellum, as well as overactivation in the left cerebellum. The exploratory whole-brain search exposed additional overactivation in the medial frontal, anterior cingulate, and left parietal cortices.
Conclusions. The present study provides evidence of significant underactivations in stable schizophrenia patients in regions that we have previously observed to be dysfunctional in acutely psychotic and partially remitted patients, together with extensive overactivations in several regions that potentially reflect some compensatory mechanism or increased effort on the working-memory task.