Determinants of cerebral hemodynamics during the Trail Making Test in schizophrenia

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Abstract

Patients with schizophrenia show deficits in cognitive functioning, and studies on cerebral hemodynamics have revealed aberrant patterns of mean cerebral blood flow velocity (MFV), an equivalent of cerebral blood flow (CBF). Therefore, we carried out a controlled study that assessed MFV in schizophrenia during a well-known neuropsychological task, the Trail Making Test (TMT). We measured MFV in the middle cerebral arteries using functional transcranial Doppler sonography in 15 schizophrenia patients and 15 healthy subjects. In comparison to healthy subjects, patients performed poorer on the TMT-A and the TMT-B, and there was increased cerebral blood flow velocity during the TMT-B. A comparison of subgroups of patients and controls matched in performance on the TMT-B revealed that these patients still showed significantly increased cerebral blood flow velocity. Increased MFV in schizophrenia suggests specific alterations of cerebral hemodynamics during the Trail Making Test, Part B, which are not detectable during visuomotor activity, and which are independent of performance. These findings emphasize the pathophysiological importance of cognitive functioning in schizophrenia, but cast doubts whether performance in this particular test plays a relevant role for CBF abnormalities in schizophrenia.

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