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Schizophr Res. 2002 Mar 1;54(1-2):157-67.

Cognitive and brain function in schizotypal personality disorder.

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  • 1Department of Psychiatry, Mount Sinai School of Medicine, New York, NY, USA.


Schizotypal personality disorder, a diagnosis defined partially in terms of a genetic relatedness to schizophrenia, has begun to receive extensive investigative study. While the exact etiologic relationship between schizotypal personality disorder and schizophrenia remains to be determined, three models have been considered: (1) the two may be distinct disorders, (2) they may be essentially identical disorders but expressed with different degrees of severity, or (3) they may be related disorders with a partially overlapping etiology that might account for the many similarities yet the lack of psychosis or severe deficits in schizotypal individuals. Some of the recent research in the structural and functional neuroanatomy, neurochemistry, cognitive function, and pharmacology of schizotypal personality disorder is reviewed with citation of the most recent findings from our laboratory and others. Both schizotypal and schizophrenic subjects appear to show abnormalities in temporal lobe volume, but schizotypal subjects do not appear to show the volumetric decreases in frontal cortex that schizophrenic patients evidence. Abnormalities in thalamic nuclei parallel these findings-the pulvinar, which projects to temporal association and sensory cortices, is reduced in both disorders, but the mediodorsal nucleus, which projects extensively to the frontal cortex, is reduced in schizophrenic patients but not in schizotypal patients. Functional imaging studies suggest that there may be abnormalities in frontal activation in both disorders, but that schizotypal individuals can recruit alternative regions to accomplish tasks requiring frontal lobe activation that may help compensate. Imaging studies of the subcortex including FDG/PET imaging of metabolic activity during a verbal learning task, SPECT imaging studies which measure binding of IBZM and its displacement following amphetamine administration, and plasma HVA determinations following 2-deoxyglucose administration all suggest the possibility of relatively reduced dopaminergic subcortical activity in schizotypal individuals compared to schizophrenic patients. Cognitive function is also impaired in the areas of working memory, verbal learning, and attention in schizotypal patients, as in schizophrenic patients, and they may be particularly susceptible to cognitive tasks with high context dependence, as in schizophrenia. Preliminary trials of catecholaminergic agents suggest that these agents may be able to improve these impaired cognitive functions.

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