Faulty Executive Attention and Memory Interactions in Schizophrenia: Prefrontal Gray Matter Volume and Neuropsychological Impairment

Nestor PG, Forte M, Ohtani T, Levitt JJ, Newell DT, Shenton ME, Niznikiewicz M, McCarley RW

Clin EEG Neurosci 2019 Oct;:1550059419881529

PMID: 31608658


We hypothesized that neuropsychological disturbance in schizophrenia (SZ) may reflect faulty interactions of executive attention and episodic memory, emanating, in part, from reduced prefrontal cortex (PFC) gray matter volume. Participants with SZ (n = 84) and age-matched (n = 77) controls completed both the Wisconsin Card Sorting Test (WCST) and the Wechsler Memory Scale-Third Edition (WMS-III), used, respectively, as measures of executive attention and episodic memory. A subset of SZ (n = 27) and control (n = 17) groups also had available 3-T magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) studies of the PFC. For SZ, but not control groups, neuropsychological results indicated that executive attention interacted significantly with episodic memory, with failures of executive attention, as reflected by increased WCST perseverative errors, directly linked to poor performance on the WMS-III measure of delayed visual recall of action scenes. MRI results indicated reduced left PFC gray matter volume for SZ group, which in turn correlated significantly with their deficits in visual memory but not in executive attention. Results showed that 61% of the variance in neuropsychological performance in the SZ group was attributed to gray matter volume of left inferior prefrontal gyrus gray matter volume. PFC-mediated failure of executive attention-episodic memory interactions may represent an important mechanism in neuropsychological disturbance in SZ.