Schizophrenia Patients Lack Normal Positive Correlation Between Age and Brain Response During Verbal Learning

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Abstract

Objective:

To investigate the differences in the relationship of age to brain function among individuals with schizophrenia and a healthy comparison group. The authors hypothesized that the correlation with age would be more strongly negative among schizophrenia patients, particularly in the frontal cortex.

Design:

Cross-sectional measures of functional MRI (fMRI) brain response were correlated with age in both groups.

Setting:

Participants came to university research facilities for testing.

Participants:

The authors analyzed data from 30 patients with Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition schizophrenia or schizoaffective disorder ranging in age from 25 to 68 years and 14 healthy comparison participants ranging in age from 21 to 70 years.

Measurements:

Brain response during word pair learning was measured with fMRI in each voxel of the brain. This measure was correlated with age within each group and the correlations were compared across groups in regions of interest determined a priori and based on a whole-brain analysis. In exploratory analyses, the authors examined the interaction of task performance with age and study group.

Results:

The correlations between age and brain response were more positive in the healthy group than in the schizophrenia group in several regions, including right lateral prefrontal cortex and clusters in midline precuneus and right superior temporal gyrus. Interactions with task performance suggest that age effects on brain function relate differently to cognitive output in patients and comparison participants.

Conclusions:

There is no strong evidence that functional brain response during learning changes significantly with age among schizophrenia patients, in contrast to findings of positive associations with age among healthy individuals.

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