Brain connections in schizophrenia

March 9, 2018 by Leigh Macmillan, Vanderbilt University
Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) and other brain imaging technologies allow for the study of differences in brain activity in people diagnosed with schizophrenia. The image shows two levels of the brain, with areas that were more active in healthy controls than in schizophrenia patients shown in orange, during an fMRI study of working memory. Credit: Kim J, Matthews NL, Park S./PLoS One.

Executive cognitive functions—abilities that include working memory and underlie mental control and self-regulation—are impaired in schizophrenia. Current pharmacological and behavioral interventions have only modest pro-cognitive effects.

In studies of individuals with and healthy participants, Neil Woodward, PhD, and colleagues tested executive functions and used imaging (diffusion-weighted MRI) to quantify connections between brain regions that support executive functions.

They report in the March 15 issue of Biological Psychiatry that connectivity between the prefrontal cortex and the thalamus is reduced in schizophrenia. The reduced connectivity correlated with impaired working memory but not with other executive functions (cognitive flexibility and inhibition). They also found increased connectivity between the thalamus and the somatosensory and occipital cortices in schizophrenia.

The findings are consistent with other studies that implicate disrupted prefrontal cortex-thalamic function in the pathophysiology of schizophrenia, and they suggest that the connection between these may be an important target for pro-cognitive interventions.

Explore further: Altered brain activity responsible for cognitive symptoms of schizophrenia

More information: Monica Giraldo-Chica et al. Prefrontal-Thalamic Anatomical Connectivity and Executive Cognitive Function in Schizophrenia, Biological Psychiatry (2017). DOI: 10.1016/j.biopsych.2017.09.022

Related Stories

Altered brain activity responsible for cognitive symptoms of schizophrenia

March 20, 2013
Cognitive problems with memory and behavior experienced by individuals with schizophrenia are linked with changes in brain activity; however, it is difficult to test whether these changes are the underlying cause or consequence ...

Schizophrenia study identifies shifts in patterns of glutamate and GABA in visuospatial working memory network

January 18, 2018
A new study in Biological Psychiatry has characterized the patterns of brain neurotransmitters glutamate and GABA in a network of regions that temporarily maintain and process visual information about the location of objects ...

Structural brain connectivity as a genetic marker for schizophrenia

November 25, 2015
Schizophrenia has been considered an illness of disrupted brain connectivity since its earliest descriptions. Several studies have suggested brain white matter is affected not only in patients with schizophrenia but also ...

Too much activity in certain areas of the brain is bad for memory and attention

August 23, 2016
Neurons in the brain interact by sending each other chemical messages, so-called neurotransmitters. Gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) is the most common inhibitory neurotransmitter, which is important to restrain neural activity, ...

Brain stimulation may improve cognitive performance in people with schizophrenia

July 24, 2017
Brain stimulation could be used to treat cognitive deficits frequently associated with schizophrenia, according to a new study from King's College London.

More brain activity is not always better when it comes to memory and attention

June 13, 2017
Potential new ways of understanding the cause of cognitive impairments, such as problems with memory and attention, in brain disorders including schizophrenia and Alzheimer's are under the spotlight in a new research review.

Recommended for you

Study with infants suggests language not necessary for reasoning ability

March 16, 2018
A team of researchers from Spain, Hungary and Poland has found via a study with infants that language may not be a necessity for the ability to reason. In their paper published in the journal Science, the group describes ...

Hep C compounds alcoholism's effect on brain volume

March 16, 2018
(HealthDay)—Alcohol dependence has deleterious effects on frontal cortical volumes that are compounded by hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection and drug dependence, according to a study published online March 14 in JAMA Psychiatry.

Study casts doubt on ketamine nasal sprays for depression

March 16, 2018
Researchers from the Black Dog Institute and UNSW Sydney have questioned the efficacy and safety of intranasal ketamine for depression, with their pilot trial stopped early due to poor side effects in patients.

Older adults' difficulties with focusing can be used to help put a face to a name

March 16, 2018
Everyone has experienced the awkward situation of meeting someone and then forgetting their name shortly after. Among older adults, this happens more often than not.

A little anger in negotiation pays

March 16, 2018
During negotiations, high-intensity anger elicits smaller concessions than moderate-intensity anger, according to a new study by management and business experts at Rice University and Northwestern University.

Research reveals brain mechanism involved in language learning

March 15, 2018
Learning a new language may be more of a science than an art, a University of Sussex study finds.


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.