The fusiform gyrus (FG), or occipitotemporal gyrus, is thought to subserve the processing and encoding of faces. Of note, several studies have reported that patients with schizophrenia show deficits in facial processing. It is thus hypothesized that the FG might be one brain region underlying abnormal facial recognition in schizophrenia. The objectives of this study were to determine whether there are abnormalities in gray matter volumes for the anterior and the posterior FG in patients with chronic schizophrenia and to investigate relationships between FG subregions and immediate and delayed memory for faces.
Patients were recruited from the Boston VA Healthcare System, Brockton Division, and control subjects were recruited through newspaper advertisement. Study participants included 21 male patients diagnosed as having chronic schizophrenia and 28 male controls. Participants underwent high-spatial-resolution magnetic resonance imaging, and facial recognition memory was evaluated. Main outcome measures included anterior and posterior FG gray matter volumes based on high-spatial-resolution magnetic resonance imaging, a detailed and reliable manual delineation using 3-dimensional information, and correlation coefficients between FG subregions and raw scores on immediate and delayed facial memory derived from the Wechsler Memory Scale III.
Patients with chronic schizophrenia had overall smaller FG gray matter volumes (10%) than normal controls. Additionally, patients with schizophrenia performed more poorly than normal controls in both immediate and delayed facial memory tests. Moreover, the degree of poor performance on delayed memory for faces was significantly correlated with the degree of bilateral anterior FG reduction in patients with schizophrenia.
These results suggest that neuroanatomic FG abnormalities underlie at least some of the deficits associated with facial recognition in schizophrenia.