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Hypofrontality in Neuroleptic-Naive Patients and in Patients With Chronic Schizophrenia:  Assessment With Xenon 133 Single-Photon Emission Computed Tomography and the Tower of London

Nancy C. Andreasen, MD, PhD; Karim Rezai, MD; Randall Alliger, PhD; Victor W. Swayze II, MD; Michael Flaum, MD; Peter Kirchner, MD; Gregg Cohen, MS; Daniel S. O'Leary, PhD
Arch Gen Psychiatry. 1992;49(12):943-958. doi:10.1001/archpsyc.1992.01820120031006.
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• The "hypofrontality hypothesis" has been supported by many neuroimaging studies, but not all, perhaps because of heterogeneity of samples. The present study examined three different samples that permitted assessment of a variety of confounders, such as effects of long-term treatment, chronicity of illness, and presenting phenomenology: (1) 13 neuroleptic-naive schizophrenic patients, (2) 23 nonnaive schizophrenic patients who had been relatively chronically ill but were medication free for at least 3 weeks, and (3) 15 healthy normal volunteers. Regional cerebral blood flow was measured using single-photon emission computed tomography with xenon 133 as the tracer. The control condition consisted of looking at undulating colored shapes on a video monitor, while the experimental task was the Tower of London. We observed the Tower of London to be a relatively specific stimulant of the left mesial frontal cortex (probably including parts of the cingulate gyrus) in healthy normal volunteers. Both the neuroleptic-naive and the nonnaive patients lacked this area of activation, as well as a related one in the right parietal cortex (representing the circuitry specifically activated by the Tower of London). Decreased activation occurred only in the patients with high scores for negative symptoms. These results suggest that hypofrontality is related to negative symptoms and is not a long-term effect of neuroleptic treatment or of chronicity of illness.

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