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The brain functional correlates of autobiographical recall are well established, but have been little studied in schizophrenia. Additionally, autobiographical memory is one of a small number of cognitive tasks that activates rather than de-activates the default mode network, which has been found to be dysfunctional in this disorder.
Twenty-seven schizophrenic patients and 30 healthy controls underwent functional magnetic resonance imaging while viewing cue words that evoked autobiographical memories. Control conditions included both non-memory-evoking cues and a low level baseline (cross fixation).
Compared to both non-memory evoking cues and low level baseline, autobiographical recall was associated with activation in default mode network regions in the controls including the medial frontal cortex, the posterior cingulate cortex and the hippocampus, as well as other areas. Clusters of de-activation were seen outside the default mode network. There were no activation differences between the schizophrenic patients and the controls, but the patients showed clusters of failure of de-activation in non-default mode network regions.
According to this study, patients with schizophrenia show intact activation of the default mode network and other regions associated with recall of autobiographical memories. The finding of failure of de-activation outside the network suggests that schizophrenia may be associated with a general difficulty in de-activation rather than dysfunction of the default mode network per se.
Cognitive impairment is an established feature of schizophrenia. However,
little is known about its relationship to the structural and functional
brain abnormalities that characterise the disorder.
To identify structural and/or functional brain abnormalities associated
with schizophrenic cognitive impairment.
We carried out structural magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and
voxel-based morphometry in 26 participants who were cognitively impaired
and 23 who were cognitively preserved, all with schizophrenia, plus 39
matched controls. Nineteen of those who were cognitively impaired and 18
of those who were cognitively preserved plus 34 controls also underwent
functional MRI during performance of a working memory task.
No differences were found between the participants who were cognitively
intact and those who were cognitively impaired in lateral ventricular
volume or whole brain volume. Voxel-based morphometry also failed to
reveal clusters of significant difference in grey and white matter volume
between these two groups. However, during performance of the n-back task,
the participants who were cognitively impaired showed hypoactivation
compared with those who were cognitively intact in the dorsolateral
prefrontal cortex among other brain regions.
Cognitive impairment in schizophrenia is not a function of the structural
brain abnormality that accompanies the disorder but has correlates in
altered brain function.
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