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Psychiatry Res. 2000 Nov 20;100(1):49-58.

Unawareness of illness in chronic schizophrenia and its relationship to structural brain measures and neuropsychological tests.

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  • 1Institute of Psychology, University of Oslo, Norway.


The present study seeks to elucidate the relationship between unawareness of illness in schizophrenia and frontal lobe dysfunction, in addition to investigating the relationship between lack of insight and sociodemographic and clinical variables. Twenty-one medicated schizophrenic patients, recruited from in- and out-patient wards at Ullevâl Hospital, underwent the Scale to Assess Unawareness of Mental Disorder (SUMD), neuropsychological testing, psychiatric symptom ratings and neuroimaging procedures (CT). Also, 21 matched normal controls were neuropsychologically tested. CT data were assessed blindly by two experienced neuroradiologists, according to the degree of ventricular enlargement and/or sulcal widening, and an assessment of localisation of atrophy was made. Unawareness of illness was correlated with neuropsychological measures related to executive functioning, but not with other neuropsychological measures. Five patients showed slight frontal atrophy, while two showed moderate frontal atrophy. The remaining 13 patients did not show signs of frontal lobe atrophy. Frontal lobe atrophy documented by structural brain measures was associated with poor insight in schizophrenia. Furthermore, Anergia (BPRS), GAF score and 'undifferentiated' sub-diagnosis correlated with SUMD scores. Unawareness of illness in schizophrenia may be related to frontal lobe deficit. Also, awareness of illness may not be related to general psychopathology, but rather to specific aspects.

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