First-degree relatives of persons with schizophrenia are at genetic risk for the illness and show deficits on high-load information-processing tasks. In a prior study of auditory working memory (WM) using functional MRI (fMRI), the authors demonstrated that adult relatives had significantly increased activation in the dorsomedial (DM) thalamus, anterior cingulate, and prefrontal cortex (H. W. Thermenos et al., 2004). In this study, the authors extended this work using a parametric WM task designed for fMRI in an independent, unmedicated sample. Twelve nonpsychotic relatives of persons with schizophrenia and 13 healthy controls were administered multiple versions of an auditory continuous performance test during fMRI. Data were analyzed using Statistical Parametric Mapping software. Compared with controls, relatives showed significantly greater task-elicited activation in the DM thalamus. When fMRI signal change was modeled as a function of increasing WM load, there was a significant Group x Load interaction, with relatives showing significantly greater task-elicited activation in the right DM thalamus compared with controls. Greater DM thalamic activation in the relatives remained significant when WM performance, vocabulary score, and education were controlled. This replication suggests that altered thalamic activation is a feature of neurobiological risk for schizophrenia.
- functional MRI
- working memory
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology