Prefrontal cortex, negative symptoms, and schizophrenia: an MRI study

Wible CG, Anderson J, Shenton ME, Kricun A, Hirayasu Y, Tanaka S, Levitt JJ, O’Donnell BF, Kikinis R, Jolesz FA, McCarley RW

Psychiatry Res 2001 Nov;108(2):65-78

PMID: 11738541


The present study measured prefrontal cortical gray and white matter volume in chronic, male schizophrenic subjects who were characterized by a higher proportion of mixed or negative symptoms than previous patients that we have evaluated. Seventeen chronic male schizophrenic subjects and 17 male control subjects were matched on age and handedness. Regions of interest (ROI) were measured using high-resolution magnetic resonance (MR) acquisitions consisting of contiguous 1.5-mm slices of the entire brain. No significant differences were found between schizophrenic and control subjects in mean values for prefrontal gray matter volume in either hemisphere. However, right prefrontal white matter was significantly reduced in the schizophrenic group. In addition, right prefrontal gray matter volume was significantly correlated with right hippocampal volume in the schizophrenic, but not in the control group. Furthermore, an analysis in which the current data were combined with those from a previous study showed that schizophrenic subjects with high negative symptom scores had significantly smaller bilateral white matter volumes than those with low negative symptom scores. White matter was significantly reduced in the right hemisphere in this group of schizophrenic subjects. Prefrontal volumes were also associated with negative symptom severity and with volumes of medial-temporal lobe regions – two results that were also found previously in schizophrenic subjects with mostly positive symptoms. These results underscore the importance of temporal-prefrontal pathways in the symptomatology of schizophrenia, and they suggest an association between prefrontal abnormalities and negative symptoms.