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Schizophr Bull. 2009 Jan;35(1):47-57. doi: 10.1093/schbul/sbn142. Epub 2008 Nov 5.

fMRI activity correlated with auditory hallucinations during performance of a working memory task: data from the FBIRN consortium study.

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  • 1Department of Psychiatry, Harvard Medical School and Brockton VAMC, Boston, MA 02115, USA.



Auditory hallucinations are a hallmark symptom of schizophrenia. The neural basis of auditory hallucinations was examined using data from a working memory task. Data were acquired within a multisite consortium and this unique dataset provided the opportunity to analyze data from a large number of subjects who had been tested on the same procedures across sites. We hypothesized that regions involved in verbal working memory and language processing would show activity that was associated with levels of hallucinations during a condition where subjects were rehearsing the stimuli.


Data from the Sternberg Item Recognition Paradigm, a working memory task, were acquired during functional magnetic resonance imaging procedures. The data were collected and preprocessed by the functional imaging biomedical informatics research network consortium. Schizophrenic subjects were split into nonhallucinating and hallucinating subgroups and activity during the probe condition (in which subjects rehearsed stimuli) was examined. Levels of activation from contrast images for the probe phase (collapsed over levels of memory load) of the working memory task were also correlated with levels of auditory hallucinations from the Scale for the Assessment of Positive Symptoms scores.


Patients with auditory hallucinations (relative to nonhallucinating subjects) showed decreased activity during the probe condition in verbal working memory/language processing regions, including the superior temporal and inferior parietal regions. These regions also showed associations between activity and levels of hallucinations in a correlation analysis.


The association between activation and hallucinations scores in the left hemisphere language/working memory regions replicates the findings of previous studies and provides converging evidence for the association between superior temporal abnormalities and auditory hallucinations.

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