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A leading theory of the negative symptoms of schizophrenia is that they reflect reduced responsiveness to rewarding stimuli. This proposal has been linked to abnormal (reduced) dopamine function in the disorder, because phasic release of dopamine is known to code for reward prediction error (RPE). Nevertheless, few functional imaging studies have examined if patients with negative symptoms show reduced RPE-associated activations.
Matched groups of DSM-5 schizophrenia patients with high negative symptom scores (HNS, N = 27) or absent negative symptoms (ANS, N = 27) and healthy controls (HC, N = 30) underwent fMRI scanning while they performed a probabilistic monetary reward task designed to generate a measure of RPE.
In the HC, whole-brain analysis revealed that RPE was positively associated with activation in the ventral striatum, the putamen, and areas of the lateral prefrontal cortex and orbitofrontal cortex, among other regions. Group comparison revealed no activation differences between the healthy controls and the ANS patients. However, compared to the ANS patients, the HNS patients showed regions of significantly reduced activation in the left ventrolateral and dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, and in the right lingual and fusiform gyrus. HNS and ANS patients showed no activation differences in ventral striatal or midbrain regions-of-interest (ROIs), but the HNS patients showed reduced activation in a left orbitofrontal cortex ROI.
The findings do not suggest that a generalized reduction of RPE signalling underlies negative symptoms. Instead, they point to a more circumscribed dysfunction in the lateral frontal and possibly the orbitofrontal cortex.
The brain functional correlates of delusions have been relatively little studied. However, a virtual reality paradigm simulating travel on the London Underground has been found to evoke referential ideation in both healthy subjects and patients with schizophrenia, making brain activations in response to such experiences potentially identifiable.
Ninety patients with schizophrenia/schizoaffective disorder and 28 healthy controls underwent functional magnetic resonance imaging while they viewed virtual reality versions of full and empty Barcelona Metro carriages.
Compared to the empty condition, viewing the full carriage was associated with activations in the visual cortex, the cuneus and precuneus/posterior cingulate cortex, the inferior parietal cortex, the angular gyrus and parts of the middle and superior temporal cortex including the temporoparietal junction bilaterally. There were no significant differences in activation between groups. Nor were there activations associated with referentiality or presence of delusions generally in the patient group. However, patients with persecutory delusions showed a cluster of reduced activation compared to those without delusions in a region in the right temporal/occipital cortex.
Performance of the metro task is associated with a widespread pattern of activations, which does not distinguish schizophrenic patients and controls, or show an association with referentiality or delusions in general. However, the finding of a cluster of reduced activation close to the right temporoparietal junction in patients with persecutory delusions specifically is of potential interest, as this region is believed to play a role in social cognition.
Although executive impairment has been reported in mania, its brain functional correlates have been relatively little studied. This study examined goal management, believed to be more closely related to executive impairment in daily life than other executive tasks, using a novel functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) paradigm in patients in this illness phase.
Twenty-one currently manic patients with bipolar disorder and 30 matched healthy controls were scanned while performing the Computerized Multiple Elements Test (CMET). This requires participants to sequentially play four simple games, with transition between games being made either voluntarily (executive condition) or automatically (control condition).
CMET performance was impaired in the manic patients compared to the healthy controls. Manic patients failed to increase activation in the lateral frontal, cingulate and inferior parietal cortex when the executive demands of the task increased, while this increase was observed in the healthy controls. Activity in these regions was associated with task performance.
Manic patients show evidence of impaired goal management, which is associated with a pattern of reduced medial and lateral frontal and parietal activity.
One hypothesis proposed to underlie formal thought disorder (FTD), the incoherent speech is seen in some patients with schizophrenia, is that it reflects impairment in frontal/executive function. While this proposal has received support in neuropsychological studies, it has been relatively little tested using functional imaging. This study aimed to examine brain activations associated with FTD, and its two main factor-analytically derived subsyndromes, during the performance of a working memory task.
Seventy patients with schizophrenia showing a full range of FTD scores and 70 matched healthy controls underwent fMRI during the performance of the 2-back version of the n-back task. Whole-brain corrected, voxel-based correlations with FTD scores were examined in the patient group.
During 2-back performance the patients showed clusters of significant inverse correlation with FTD scores in the inferior frontal cortex and dorsolateral prefrontal cortex bilaterally, the left temporal cortex and subcortically in the basal ganglia and thalamus. Further analysis revealed that these correlations reflected an association only with ‘alogia’ (poverty of speech, poverty of content of speech and perseveration) and not with the ‘fluent disorganization’ component of FTD.
This study provides functional imaging support for the view that FTD in schizophrenia may involve impaired executive/frontal function. However, the relationship appears to be exclusively with alogia and not with the variables contributing to fluent disorganization.
Functional brain activity has been only studied marginally in schizoaffective disorder (SAD), a disorder whose nosological status is controversial. The present study investigated the prefrontal cortex (PFC) activity of schizomanic patients during performance of a working memory task.
13 schizoaffective patients, with current schizomanic episode (Young> 18); and 26 sex- and age-matched healthy controls underwent functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) while performing baseline, 1-back and 2-back versions of the n-back task. Linear models were used to obtain maps of activations and deactivations in the groups.
During performance of the n-back task, controls showed activation in a cluster of frontal areas and de-activation in the medial orbitofrontal and anterior cingulate cortex. The SAD patients showed significantly less activation in prefrontal areas than the controls. They also showed a marked failure to de-activate in medial frontal cortex. The SAD patients’ impaired task performance was associated with both reduced activation of the dorsolateral PFC and reduced de-activation of the medial frontal areas.
Schizomanic patients show failure of activation in a network of cortical regions, and also a failure to de-activate the ventromedial PFC and anterior cingulate cortex. This latter area corresponds to the one of the components of the 'default mode network´. This pattern of abnormality is similar to that found by our group to characterise schizophrenia (failure to activate and failure to de-activate), but different from that which characterises manic patients (failure to de-activate only).
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.
Positive symptoms are a useful predictor of aggression in schizophrenia. Although a similar pattern of abnormal brain structures related to both positive symptoms and aggression has been reported, this observation has not yet been confirmed in a single sample.
To study the association between positive symptoms and aggression in schizophrenia on a neurobiological level, a prospective meta-analytic approach was employed to analyze harmonized structural neuroimaging data from 10 research centers worldwide. We analyzed brain MRI scans from 902 individuals with a primary diagnosis of schizophrenia and 952 healthy controls.
The result identified a widespread cortical thickness reduction in schizophrenia compared to their controls. Two separate meta-regression analyses revealed that a common pattern of reduced cortical gray matter thickness within the left lateral temporal lobe and right midcingulate cortex was significantly associated with both positive symptoms and aggression.
These findings suggested that positive symptoms such as formal thought disorder and auditory misperception, combined with cognitive impairments reflecting difficulties in deploying an adaptive control toward perceived threats, could escalate the likelihood of aggression in schizophrenia.
Although executive and other cognitive deficits have been found in patients with borderline personality disorder (BPD), whether these have brain functional correlates has been little studied. This study aimed to examine patterns of task-related activation and de-activation during the performance of a working memory task in patients with the disorder.
Sixty-seven DSM-IV BPD patients and 67 healthy controls underwent fMRI during the performance of the n-back task. Linear models were used to obtain maps of within-group activations and areas of differential activation between the groups.
On corrected whole-brain analysis, there were no activation differences between the BPD patients and the healthy controls during the main 2-back v. baseline contrast, but reduced activation was seen in the precentral cortex bilaterally and the left inferior parietal cortex in the 2-back v. 1-back contrast. The patients showed failure of de-activation affecting the medial frontal cortex and the precuneus, plus in other areas. The changes did not appear to be attributable to previous history of depression, which was present in nearly half the sample.
In this study, there was some, though limited, evidence for lateral frontal hypoactivation in BPD during the performance of an executive task. BPD also appears to be associated with failure of de-activation in key regions of the default mode network.
Relatively few studies have investigated whether relatives of patients with bipolar disorder show brain functional changes, and these have focused on activation changes. Failure of de-activation during cognitive task performance is also seen in the disorder and may have trait-like characteristics since it has been found in euthymia.
A total of 20 euthymic patients with bipolar disorder, 20 of their unaffected siblings and 40 healthy controls underwent functional magnetic resonance imaging during performance of the n-back working memory task. An analysis of variance (ANOVA) was fitted to individual whole-brain maps from each set of patient–relative–matched pair of controls. Clusters of significant difference among the groups were used as regions of interest to compare mean activations/de-activations between them.
A single cluster of significant difference among the three groups was found in the whole-brain ANOVA. This was located in the medial prefrontal cortex, a region of task-related de-activation in the healthy controls. Both the patients and their siblings showed significantly reduced de-activation compared with the healthy controls in this region, but the failure was less marked in the relatives.
Failure to de-activate the medial prefrontal cortex in both euthymic bipolar patients and their unaffected siblings adds to evidence for default mode network dysfunction in the disorder, and suggests that it may act as a trait marker.
Delusional disorder has been the subject of very little investigation
using brain imaging.
To examine potential structural and/or functional brain abnormalities in
We used structural imaging (voxel-based morphometry, VBM) and functional
imaging (during performance of the n-back task and
whole-brain resting connectivity analysis) to examine 22 patients meeting
DSM-IV criteria for delusional disorder and 44 matched healthy
The patients showed grey matter reductions in the medial frontal/anterior
cingulate cortex and bilateral insula on unmodulated (but not on
modulated) VBM analysis, failure of de-activation in the medial
frontal/anterior cingulate cortex during performance of the
n-back task, and decreased resting-state connectivity
in the bilateral insula.
The findings provide evidence of brain abnormality in the medial
frontal/anterior cingulate cortex and insula in delusional disorder. A
role for the former region in the pathogenesis of delusions is consistent
with several other lines of evidence.
Little is known about how functional imaging changes in bipolar disorder
relate to different phases of the illness.
To compare cognitive task activation in participants with bipolar
disorder examined in different phases of illness.
Participants with bipolar disorder in mania (n = 38),
depression (n = 38) and euthymia (n =
38), as well as healthy controls (n = 38), underwent
functional magnetic resonance imaging during performance of the n-back
working memory task. Activations and de-activations were compared between
the bipolar subgroups and the controls, and among the bipolar subgroups.
All participants were also entered into a linear mixed-effects model.
Compared with the controls, the mania and depression subgroups, but not
the euthymia subgroup, showed reduced activation in the dorsolateral
prefrontal cortex, the parietal cortex and other areas. Compared with the
euthymia subgroup, the mania and depression subgroups showed
hypoactivation in the parietal cortex. All three bipolar subgroups showed
failure of de-activation in the ventromedial frontal cortex. Linear
mixed-effects modelling revealed a further cluster of reduced activation
in the left dorsolateral prefrontal cortex in the patients; this was
significantly more marked in the mania than in the euthymia subgroup.
Bipolar disorder is characterised by mood state-dependent hypoactivation
in the parietal cortex. Reduced dorsolateral prefrontal activation is a
further feature of mania and depression, which may improve partially in
euthymia. Failure of de-activation in the medial frontal cortex shows
Functional imaging studies in relatives of schizophrenic patients have had inconsistent findings, particularly with respect to altered dorsolateral prefrontal cortex activation. Some recent studies have also suggested that failure of deactivation may be seen.
A total of 28 patients with schizophrenia, 28 of their siblings and 56 healthy controls underwent functional magnetic resonance imaging during performance of the n-back working memory task. An analysis of variance was fitted to individual whole-brain maps from each set of patient–relative–matched pair of controls. Clusters of significant difference among the groups were then used as regions of interest to compare mean activations and deactivations among the groups.
In all, five clusters of significant differences were found. The schizophrenic patients, but not the relatives, showed reduced activation compared with the controls in the lateral frontal cortex bilaterally, the left basal ganglia and the cerebellum. In contrast, both the patients and the relatives showed significant failure of deactivation compared with the healthy controls in the medial frontal cortex, with the relatives also showing less failure than the patients. Failure of deactivation was not associated with schizotypy scores or presence of psychotic-like experiences in the relatives.
Both schizophrenic patients and their relatives show altered task-related deactivation in the medial frontal cortex. This in turn suggests that default mode network dysfunction may function as a trait marker for schizophrenia.
The subgenual anterior cingulate cortex (sgACC) is considered to be an important site of abnormality in major depressive disorder. However, structural alterations in this region have not been a consistent finding and functional imaging studies have also implicated additional areas.
A total of 32 patients with major depressive disorder, currently depressed, and 64 controls underwent structural imaging with MRI. Also, 26 patients and 52 controls were examined using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) during performance of the n-back working memory task. Structural and functional changes were evaluated using whole-brain, voxel-based methods.
The depressed patients showed volume reductions in the sgACC and orbitofrontal cortex bilaterally, plus in both temporal poles and the hippocampus/parahippocampal gyrus on the left. Functional imaging revealed task-related hypoactivation in the left lateral prefrontal cortex and other regions, as well as failure of deactivation in a subcallosal medial frontal cortical area which included the sgACC.
Whole-brain, voxel-based analysis finds evidence of both structural and functional abnormality in the sgACC in major depressive disorder. The fact that the functional changes in this area took the form of failure of deactivation adds to previous findings of default mode network dysfunction in the disorder.
The pathological basis of tardive dyskinesia is unknown. Although its clinical features implicate the basal ganglia, imaging studies have not found clear evidence that it is associated with volume changes in these or other brain structures.
To determine, using voxel-based structural imaging, whether there are regions of grey matter volume change in people with schizophrenia who also have tardive dyskinesia compared with those without tardive dyskinesia.
A total of 81 people with chronic schizophrenia, 32 with tardive dyskinesia and 49 without, were examined using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and whole-brain, optimised voxel-based morphometry. A comparison group of 61 healthy controls was also examined.
Compared with those without tardive dyskinesia, patients with tardive dyskinesia showed a pattern of volume reductions in predominantly subcortical regions, including the basal ganglia and the thalamus. Within the basal ganglia, volume reductions were seen in the caudate nucleus, to a lesser extent in the putamen, and only marginally in the globus pallidus. The patients with tardive dyskinesia, but not those without, showed significant volume reductions in the basal ganglia compared with the healthy controls but both groups had smaller volumes than controls in other affected areas.
The pathological process or processes that underlie the development of tardive dyskinesia are not just neurochemical in nature, but affect brain structure.
Schizo-affective disorder has not been studied to any significant extent using functional imaging. The aim of this study was to examine patterns of brain activation and deactivation in patients meeting strict diagnostic criteria for the disorder.
Thirty-two patients meeting Research Diagnostic Criteria (RDC) for schizo-affective disorder (16 schizomanic and 16 schizodepressive) and 32 matched healthy controls underwent functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) during performance of the n-back task. Linear models were used to obtain maps of activations and deactivations in the groups.
Controls showed activation in a network of frontal and other areas and also deactivation in the medial frontal cortex, the precuneus and the parietal cortex. Schizo-affective patients activated significantly less in prefrontal, parietal and temporal regions than the controls, and also showed failure of deactivation in the medial frontal cortex. When task performance was controlled for, the reduced activation in the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC) and the failure of deactivation of the medial frontal cortex remained significant.
Schizo-affective disorder shows a similar pattern of reduced frontal activation to schizophrenia. The disorder is also characterized by failure of deactivation suggestive of default mode network dysfunction.
Deficits in memory and executive performance are well-established features of bipolar disorder and schizophrenia. By contrast, data on cognitive impairment in schizoaffective disorder are scarce and the findings are conflicting.
We used the Wechsler Memory Scale (WMS-III) and the Behavioural Assessment of the Dysexecutive Syndrome (BADS) to test memory and executive function in 45 schizophrenic patients, 26 schizomanic patients and 51 manic bipolar patients in comparison to 65 healthy controls. The patients were tested when acutely ill.
All three patient groups performed significantly more poorly than the controls on global measures of memory and executive functioning, but there were no differences among the patient groups. There were few differences in memory and executive function subtest scores within the patient groups. There were no differences in any test scores between manic patients with and without psychotic symptoms.
Schizophrenic, schizomanic and manic patients show a broadly similar degree of executive and memory deficits in the acute phase of illness. Our results do not support a categorical differentiation across different psychotic categories with regard to neuropsychological deficits.
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.
It is not known whether first-episode psychosis is characterized by the same prefrontal cortex functional imaging abnormalities as chronic schizophrenia.
Thirty patients with a first episode of non-affective functional psychosis and 28 healthy controls underwent functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) during performance of the n-back working memory task. Voxel-based analyses of brain activations and deactivations were carried out and compared between groups. The connectivity of regions of significant difference between the patients and controls was also examined.
The first-episode patients did not show significant prefrontal hypo- or hyperactivation compared to controls. However, they showed failure of deactivation in the medial frontal cortex. This area showed high levels of connectivity with the posterior cingulate gyrus/precuneus and parts of the parietal cortex bilaterally. Failure of deactivation was significantly greater in first-episode patients who had or went on to acquire a DSM-IV diagnosis of schizophrenia than in those who did not, and in those who met RDC criteria for schizophrenia compared to those who did not.
First-episode psychosis is not characterized by hypo- or hyperfrontality but instead by a failure of deactivation in the medial frontal cortex. The location and connectivity of this area suggest that it is part of the default mode network. The failure of deactivation seems to be particularly marked in first-episode patients who have, or progress to, schizophrenia.
Functional imaging studies using working memory tasks have documented both prefrontal cortex (PFC) hypo- and hyperactivation in schizophrenia. However, these studies have often failed to consider the potential role of task-related deactivation.
Thirty-two patients with chronic schizophrenia and 32 age- and sex-matched normal controls underwent functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) scanning while performing baseline, 1-back and 2-back versions of the n-back task. Linear models were used to obtain maps of activations and deactivations in the groups.
The controls showed activation in the expected frontal regions. There were also clusters of deactivation, particularly in the anterior cingulate/ventromedial PFC and the posterior cingulate cortex/precuneus. Compared to the controls, the schizophrenic patients showed reduced activation in the right dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC) and other frontal areas. There was also an area in the anterior cingulate/ventromedial PFC where the patients showed apparently greater activation than the controls. This represented a failure of deactivation in the schizophrenic patients. Failure to activate was a function of the patients' impaired performance on the n-back task, whereas the failure to deactivate was less performance dependent.
Patients with schizophrenia show both failure to activate and failure to deactivate during performance of a working memory task. The area of failure of deactivation is in the anterior prefrontal/anterior cingulate cortex and corresponds to one of the two midline components of the ‘default mode network’ implicated in functions related to maintaining one's sense of self.
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