Hyperfrontality in patients with schizophrenia during saccade and antisaccade tasks: A study with fMRI

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Aims:Antisaccadic eye movements, requiring inhibition of a saccade toward a briefly appearing peripheral target, are known to be impaired in schizophrenia. Previous neuroimaging studies have indicated that patients with schizophrenia show diminished activations in the frontal cortex and basal ganglia. These studies used target fixation as a baseline condition. However, if the levels of brain activities at baseline are not compatible between patients and healthy subjects, between-group comparison on antisaccade-related activations is consequently invalidated. One possibility is that patients with schizophrenia may present with greater activation during fixation than healthy subjects. In order to examine this possibility, here we investigated brain activities associated with antisaccade in the two groups without using target fixation at baseline.Methods:Functional brain images were acquired during prosaccades and antisaccades in 18 healthy subjects and 18 schizophrenia patients using a box-car functional magnetic resonance imaging design. Eye movements were measured during scanning.Results:In the patient group, the elevated activities in the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC) and thalamus, normally seen in antisaccade tasks relative to saccade tasks, were no longer observed. Moreover, in normal subjects, activities in the DLPFC and thalamus were greater during the antisaccade task than during the saccade task. In patients, no such difference was observed between the two tasks, suggesting that these brain regions are likely to be highly activated even by a simple task such as fixation. In particular, the DLPFC and thalamus in patients were not activated at a level commensurate with the difficulty of the tasks presented.Conclusions:From these results, it is suggested that schizophrenia entails dysfunctions in the fronto-striato-thalamo-cortical network associated with motor function control.

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