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Schizophr Res. 2010 Sep;122(1-3):53-62. doi: 10.1016/j.schres.2010.03.011. Epub 2010 Apr 11.

Disturbed sexual dimorphism of brain activation during mental rotation in schizophrenia.

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Centre de Recherche Fernand-Seguin and Department of Psychiatry, Université de Montréal, Montreal, Canada.



Sex differences in visuo-spatial abilities have been well documented in the general population, but there are only a few inconsistent reports in schizophrenia. The purpose of the present study was to examine potential sex differences in performance and pattern of brain activations during mental rotation in schizophrenia patients relative to control participants.


Thirty three schizophrenia patients (17 women and 16 men) were compared to thirty five healthy control participants (17 women and 18 men), while performing a classic mental rotation task (3-D figures). Blood oxygen level dependent (BOLD) echo-planar images were acquired on a 3-Tesla Siemens TRIO system. Random-effect analyses were performed using SPM5 (UK Wellcome Institute).


Behavioural data revealed a diagnosis-by-sex interaction with healthy men (HM) performing significantly better than schizophrenia men (SZ-M) and no significant difference between healthy women (HW) and schizophrenia women (SZ-W). fMRI results revealed an overall similar pattern of extensive cerebral activations (in the parietal and lateral prefrontal cortex) and deactivations (in the medial prefrontal cortex) in HM and SZ-W during performance of the mental rotation versus control task. In contrast, both HW and SZ-M showed much more restricted activations and no significant deactivations.


Sex differences in performance and cerebral activations during mental rotation in schizophrenia patients deviated significantly from what we observed in healthy volunteers. This finding supports and extends existing evidence of a disturbed sexual dimorphism in schizophrenia. Moreover, the results emphasize the importance of including both sexes in neurocognitive and neuroimaging studies of schizophrenia.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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