A systematic fMRI investigation of the brain systems subserving different working memory components in schizophrenia

Authors

  • I. Henseler,

    1. Centre for Translational Research in Systems Neuroscience and Clinical Psychiatry, Department of Psychiatry and Psychotherapy, Georg August University, Von-Siebold Str.5, 37075 Göttingen, Germany
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  • P. Falkai,

    1. Centre for Translational Research in Systems Neuroscience and Clinical Psychiatry, Department of Psychiatry and Psychotherapy, Georg August University, Von-Siebold Str.5, 37075 Göttingen, Germany
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  • O. Gruber

    1. Centre for Translational Research in Systems Neuroscience and Clinical Psychiatry, Department of Psychiatry and Psychotherapy, Georg August University, Von-Siebold Str.5, 37075 Göttingen, Germany
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Dr I. Henseler, as above.
E-mail: ihensel@gwdg.de

Abstract

Working memory impairment is one of the cardinal cognitive disturbances in schizophrenia and considerable evidence suggests that it can be traced to functional alterations in the brain. The exact allocation of specific deficits to regional specific dysfunctions, however, remains elusive. The aim of this study was to examine the functional integrity of three distinguishable brain systems underlying maintenance-related subprocesses of working memory (articulatory rehearsal, non-articulatory maintenance of phonological information, maintenance of visuospatial information) in patients with schizophrenia. Using an experimental paradigm, which had been designed to selectively activate these different brain systems, we assessed the brain activation of patients and controls with functional magnetic resonance imaging. Compared with controls, patients showed reduced activation of the fronto-opercular, intraparietal and anterior cingulate cortex during the non-articulatory maintenance of phonological information, as well as attenuated deactivation of the hippocampus. Additionally, we found prefrontal activation to depend critically on the patients’ current symptom status. During visuospatial maintenance, patients showed impaired activation of the superior parietal, temporal and occipital cortex, combined with enhanced activation of the frontal eye field and the inferior parietal cortex. No abnormal activations were observed during the articulatory rehearsal task. All activation differences were independent of group differences in task performance. Our fine-grained analysis of dysfunctions in particular aspects of working memory circuitry provides evidence for a differential impairment of the brain systems supporting working memory subcomponents in schizophrenia and extends knowledge of the relationship between cognitive deficits, brain activation abnormalities and symptoms in schizophrenia.

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