Prefrontal cortex volume deficit in schizophrenia: a new look using 3T MRI with manual parcellation

Ohtani T, Levitt JJ, Nestor PG, Kawashima T, Asami T, Shenton ME, Niznikiewicz M, McCarley RW

Schizophr. Res. 2014 Jan;152(1):184-90

PMID: 24280350


In this study we use high resolution Magnetic Resonance imaging (MRI) and apply rigorous manual tracing criteria in order to assess volumetrically the prefrontal cortex (PFC) in schizophrenia. Previous MRI studies suggested PFC is included in neural systems necessary for emotional processing and cognition, and regional PFC abnormalities might, thus, lead to specific negative symptoms, as well as a frequent association of poorer performance in category switching. The aim of this study was to use 3T imaging and reliable manual parcellation to determine if, as hypothesized, this higher precision would reveal additional MRI abnormalities in PFC in schizophrenia, and an association between PFC abnormalities and specific negative symptoms, as well as in category switching. Using 3-T MRI, 27 schizophrenia patients and 27 healthy controls were examined. PFC was manually parcellated into frontal pole, superior frontal gyrus (SFG), middle frontal gyrus (MFG), and inferior frontal gyrus (IFG). Left SFG (p=0.004), bilateral MFG (left: p=0.007; right: p=0.007), and bilateral IFG (left: p<0.001; right: p=0.002) showed volume reduction. There were symptom associations between smaller left MFG volumes and more affective flattening (R=-0.465, p=0.015), and smaller left IFG volumes and poorer performance on the alternating semantic category test (R=0.440, p=0.025). In summary, 3-T imaging revealed widespread gyral volume deficits in PFC gyri, and specific associations with selective negative symptoms, such as affective flattening, and with deficits in cognitive switching.