Viher PV, Stegmayer K, Kubicki M, Karmacharya S, Lyall AE, Federspiel A, Vanbellingen T, Bohlhalter S, Wiest R, Strik W, Walther S
Neuroimage Clin 2018;17:213-221
Schizophrenia is characterized by deficits in gesturing that is important for nonverbal communication. Research in healthy participants and brain-damaged patients revealed a left-lateralized fronto-parieto-temporal network underlying gesture performance. First evidence from structural imaging studies in schizophrenia corroborates these results. However, as of yet, it is unclear if cortical thickness abnormalities contribute to impairments in gesture performance. We hypothesized that patients with deficits in gesture production show cortical thinning in 12 regions of interest (ROIs) of a gesture network relevant for gesture performance and recognition. Forty patients with schizophrenia and 41 healthy controls performed hand and finger gestures as either imitation or pantomime. Group differences in cortical thickness between patients with deficits, patients without deficits, and controls were explored using a multivariate analysis of covariance. In addition, the relationship between gesture recognition and cortical thickness was investigated. Patients with deficits in gesture production had reduced cortical thickness in eight ROIs, including the pars opercularis of the inferior frontal gyrus, the superior and inferior parietal lobes, and the superior and middle temporal gyri. Gesture recognition correlated with cortical thickness in fewer, but mainly the same, ROIs within the patient sample. In conclusion, our results show that impaired gesture production and recognition in schizophrenia is associated with cortical thinning in distinct areas of the gesture network.