Loosening of associations has long been considered a core feature of schizophrenia, but its neural correlate remains poorly understood.
To test the hypothesis that, in comparison with healthy control subjects, patients with schizophrenia show increased neural activity within inferior prefrontal and temporal cortices in response to directly and indirectly semantically related (relative to unrelated) words.
A functional neuroimaging study using a semantic priming paradigm.
Lindemann Mental Health Center, Boston, Mass.
Seventeen right-handed medicated outpatients with chronic schizophrenia and 15 healthy volunteers, matched for age and parental socioeconomic status.
Functional magnetic resonance imaging as participants viewed directly related, indirectly related, and unrelated word pairs and performed a lexical decision task.
Main Outcome Measures
Event-related functional magnetic resonance imaging measures of blood oxygenation level−dependent activity (1) within a priori temporal and prefrontal anatomic regions of interest and (2) at all voxels across the cortex.
Patients and controls showed no behavioral differences in priming but opposite patterns of hemodynamic modulation in response to directly related (relative to unrelated) word pairs primarily within inferior prefrontal cortices, and to indirectly related (relative to unrelated) word pairs primarily within temporal cortices. Whereas controls showed the expected decreases in activity in response to semantic relationships (hemodynamic response suppression), patients showed inappropriate increases in response to semantic relationships (hemodynamic response enhancement) in many of the same regions. Moreover, hemodynamic response enhancement within the temporal fusiform cortices to indirectly related (relative to unrelated) word pairs predicted positive thought disorder.
Medicated patients with chronic schizophrenia, particularly those with positive thought disorder, show inappropriate increases in activity within inferior prefrontal and temporal cortices in response to semantic associations.