Published online by Cambridge University Press: 16 April 2020
People with ‘prodromal’ symptoms have a very high risk of developing psychosis. We used functional MRI to examine the neurocognitive basis of this vulnerability.
Cross-sectional comparison of subjects with an ARMS (n=17), first episode schizophreniform psychosis (n=10) and healthy volunteers (n=15). Subjects were studied using functional MRI while they performed an overt verbal fluency task, a random movement generation paradigm and an N-Back working memory task.
During an N-Back task the ARMS group engaged inferior frontal and posterior parietal cortex less than controls but more than the first episode group. During a motor generation task, the ARMS group showed less activation in the left inferior parietal cortex than controls, but greater activation than the first episode group. During verbal fluency using ‘Easy’ letters, the ARMS group demonstrated intermediate activation in the left inferior frontal cortex, with first episode groups showing least, and controls most, activation. When processing ‘Hard’ letters, differential activation was evident in two left inferior frontal regions. In its dorsolateral portion, the ARMS group showed less activation than controls but more than the first episode group, while in the opercular part of the left inferior frontal gyrus / anterior insula activation was greatest in the first episode group, weakest in controls and intermediate in the ARMS group.
The ARMS is associated with abnormalities of regional brain function that are qualitatively similar to those in patients who have just developed psychosis but less severe.