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J Psychiatr Res. 2011 Aug;45(8):1067-76. doi: 10.1016/j.jpsychires.2011.01.002. Epub 2011 Feb 9.

Inefficiently increased anterior cingulate modulation of cortical systems during working memory in young offspring of schizophrenia patients.

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Dept. of Psychiatry & Behavioral Neuroscience, Wayne State University SOM, MI 48201, USA.



Children and adolescent offspring of schizophrenia patients are at increased risk for schizophrenia and are also characterized by impairments in brain structure and function. To date, few studies have investigated whether functional interactions between brain regions are intact or altered. Using an established verbal working memory paradigm with variable levels of memory load, we investigated the modulatory effect of activity in cognitive control regions of the brain (specifically the dorsal anterior cingulate cortex) on activity in core working memory regions, in particular the dorsal prefrontal cortex and the parietal lobe.


Forty four subjects participated. An n-back task with two levels of working memory load (1- and 2-back) was employed during fMRI (4 T Bruker MedSpec system). Data were processed with SPM5 and the modulatory effects of the anterior cingulate were investigated using psycho-physiological interaction (PPI).


In spite of only subtle activation differences, and no significant differences in performance accuracy, a significant group x memory load interaction in the parietal lobe, indicated aberrantly increased modulatory inputs to this region under conditions of high working memory load in schizophrenia offspring.


Increased modulatory inputs from a central control region like the anterior cingulate presumably reflect relative inefficiency in intra-cortical interactions in the vulnerable brain. This inefficiency may reflect a developmentally mediated impairment in functional brain interactions in this important vulnerable population. It is highly plausible that the resultant effect of these altered interactions is an increased vulnerability to impaired brain development, and therefore to psychiatric disorders including schizophrenia.

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