During verbal-fluency tasks, impairments in performance and functional abnormalities in the inferior frontal cortex have been observed in both schizophrenia patients and their unaffected relatives. We sought to examine whether such functional abnormalities are a specific marker of genetic vulnerability to schizophrenia. We studied a sample of 132 subjects, comprising 39 patients with schizophrenia, 10 unaffected monozygotic (MZ) cotwins of schizophrenia probands, 28 patients with bipolar disorder, 7 unaffected MZ cotwins of bipolar disorder probands and 48 healthy controls. Blood oxygen level-dependent response was measured using functional magnetic resonance imaging during the performance of an overt verbal-fluency task with two levels of task difficulty, in a cytoarchitectonic region of interest encompassing Brodmann areas 44 and 45 bilaterally. Patients with schizophrenia and the unaffected MZ cotwins of schizophrenia probands showed increased activation in the inferior frontal cortex relative to healthy controls and bipolar patients. Increased engagement of the inferior frontal cortex during verbal-fluency may thus be a marker of genetic vulnerability to schizophrenia. Hum Brain Mapp, 2009. © 2009 Wiley-Liss, Inc.