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Schizophr Res. 2009 Mar;108(1-3):93-103. doi: 10.1016/j.schres.2008.12.010. Epub 2009 Jan 20.

Impaired regional hemodynamic response in schizophrenia during multiple prefrontal activation tasks: a two-channel near-infrared spectroscopy study.

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Department of Psychiatry, Osaka University Graduate School of Medicine, D3, 2-2 Yamadaoka, Suita, Osaka, 565-0871 Japan.


In schizophrenia, dysfunction of the prefrontal cortex (PFC), regarded as a core feature of the disease, has been investigated by different neuroimaging methods. Near infrared spectroscopy (NIRS), a novel neurophysiological method, is being increasingly used in the investigation of frontal dysfunction in schizophrenia. However, NIRS measurements during multiple frontal activation tasks have been rarely reported. The purpose of this study was to compare hemodynamic changes in the PFC between patients with schizophrenia and healthy controls during four different types of frontal lobe tasks using a 2-channel NIRS system. Thirty patients with schizophrenia and thirty age- and gender-matched healthy controls were enrolled in this study. In both groups, changes in oxygenated hemoglobin concentration (Delta[oxyHb]) at the bilateral forehead were measured during Verbal fluency test letter version (VFT-letter), VFT category version, Tower of Hanoi (TOH), the Sternberg and Stroop tasks. Regarding Delta[oxyHb] in PFC, a diagnosis group effect was found for VFT-letter and TOH. Significant negative correlation was found between left Delta[oxyHb] during TOH and negative and cognitive symptom scores in schizophrenia patients. Right Delta[oxyHb] during TOH also showed significant negative correlation with cognitive symptoms scores. No significant correlation between Delta[oxyHb] and clinical characteristics were observed during VFT-letter. These findings suggest that among a battery of frontal lobe tasks administered to schizophrenia patients, VFT-letter and TOH are more sensitive to detect PFC activation, as indicated by Delta[oxyHb] using a 2-channel NIRS. Taken together, these findings and those of previous neuroimaging studies suggest that VFT-letter and TOH might represent possible candidate physiological markers of prefrontal dysfunction in schizophrenia, though extensive testing in clinical settings will be necessary.

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