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Am J Psychiatry. 2001 Nov;158(11):1797-808.

Abnormal patterns of regional cerebral blood flow in schizophrenia with primary negative symptoms during an effortful auditory recognition task.

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  • 1Maryland Psychiatric Research Center, University of Maryland School of Medicine, Baltimore 21228, USA.



Using functional brain imaging, the authors sought to replicate their earlier finding of low metabolism in the middle frontal and inferior parietal cortices of schizophrenic patients with primary negative symptoms.


According to the presence or absence of enduring negative symptoms, patients with schizophrenia were classified as having deficit or nondeficit schizophrenia, respectively. Twelve normal volunteers and 18 drug-free schizophrenic volunteers (deficit, N=8; nondeficit, N=10) were trained in a tone discrimination task. They were trained to perform with 70%-80% accuracy and were then scanned with positron emission tomography with [(15)O]H(2)O during three conditions: rest, sensory-motor control task, and decision task.


Levels of performance of the auditory recognition task were similar in the three groups. An initial hypothesis-driven analysis revealed that across tasks the deficit group failed to show significant activation in the middle frontal cortex. This was in contrast to both the normal volunteers and nondeficit patients. When the patient groups were contrasted, the deficit patients showed significantly less activation in the middle frontal cortex bilaterally during the control task and in the right middle frontal cortex and inferior parietal cortex during the decision task. An exploratory analysis contrasting deficit and nondeficit patients across conditions did not reveal further differences between groups.


This study replicated the finding of low activation in the middle frontal cortex and inferior parietal cortex in deficit schizophrenia. This deficit was observed without performance confound and may provide a marker of primary negative symptoms and a target for new therapies.

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