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Brain Imaging Behav. 2010 Mar;4(1):109-20. doi: 10.1007/s11682-010-9090-3. Epub 2010 Feb 17.

Disturbed functional connectivity of cortical activation during semantic discrimination in patients with schizophrenia and subjects at genetic high-risk.

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Department of Radiology, Albert Einstein College of Medicine, Yeshiva University, 1300 Morris Park Avenue, Gruss 204, Bronx, NY 10461, USA.


Schizophrenia has a strong genetic component that is relevant to the understanding of the pathophysiology of the syndrome. Thus, recent investigations have shifted from studies of diagnosed patients with schizophrenia to examining their unaffected relatives. Previous studies found that during language processing, relatives thought to be at genetic high-risk for the disorder exhibit aberrant functional activation in regions of language processing, specifically in the left inferior frontal gyrus (Broca's area). However, functional connectivity among the regions involved in language pathways is not well understood. In this study, we examined the functional connectivity between a seed located in Broca's area and the remainder of the brain during a visual lexical decision task, in 20 schizophrenia patients, 21 subjects at genetic high risk for the disorder and 21 healthy controls. Both the high-risk subjects and patients showed significantly reduced activation correlations between seed and regions related to visual language processing. Compared to the high-risk subjects, the schizophrenia patients showed even fewer regions that were correlated with the seed regions. These results suggest that there is aberrant functional connectivity within cortical language circuitry in high-risk subjects and patients with schizophrenia. Broca's area, which is one of the important regions for language processing in healthy controls, had a significantly reduced role in the high-risk subjects and patients with schizophrenia. Our findings are consistent with the existence of an underlying biological disturbance that begins in genetically at risk individuals and progresses to a greater extent in those who eventually develop schizophrenia.

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