Differential contributions of prefrontal and temporolimbic pathology to mechanisms of psychosis.
Common abnormalities within the schizophrenia spectrum may be essential for the pathogenesis of schizophrenia, but additional pathological changes may be required for the development of full-blown schizophrenia. Clarifying the neurobiological similarities and differences between established schizophrenia and a milder form of schizophrenia spectrum disorder would potentially discriminate the pathophysiological mechanisms underlying the core features of the schizophrenia spectrum from those associated with overt psychosis. High-resolution MRIs were acquired from 25 patients with schizotypal disorder, 53 patients with schizophrenia and 59 healthy volunteers matched for age, gender, handedness and parental education. Volumetric measurements of the medial temporal structures and the prefrontal cortex subcomponents were performed using consecutive 1-mm thick coronal slices. Parcellation of the prefrontal cortex into subcomponents was performed according to the intrinsic anatomical landmarks of the frontal sulci/gyri. Compared with the controls, the bilateral volumes of the amygdala and the hippocampus were reduced comparably in the schizotypal and schizophrenia patients. The parahippocampal gyrus volume did not differ significantly between diagnostic groups. Total prefrontal grey matter volumes were smaller bilaterally in the schizophrenia patients than in the controls and the schizotypal patients, whereas the schizotypal patients had larger prefrontal grey matter than the controls in the right hemisphere. In the schizophrenia patients, grey matter volumes of the bilateral superior frontal gyrus, left middle frontal gyrus, bilateral inferior frontal gyrus and bilateral straight gyrus were smaller than those in the controls. The schizophrenia patients also had reduced grey matter volumes in the right superior frontal gyrus, bilateral middle frontal gyrus and right inferior frontal gyrus relative to the schizotypal patients. Compared with the controls, the schizotypal patients had larger volumes of the bilateral middle frontal gyrus and smaller volumes of the right straight gyrus. There were no significant between-group differences in volumes of the ventral medial prefrontal cortex or the orbitofrontal cortex. These findings suggest that volume reductions in the amygdala and hippocampus are the common morphological substrates for the schizophrenia spectrum, which presumably represent the vulnerability. Additional widespread involvement of the prefrontal cortex in schizophrenia may lead to the loss of inhibitory control in other brain regions and suggests (although it is not specifically be related to) its critical role in the manifestation of overt psychosis.
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