Background First-degree relatives of persons with schizophrenia carry elevated genetic risk for the illness and show deficits on high-load information processing tasks. We used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to test whether nonpsychotic relatives show altered functional activation in the prefrontal cortex (PFC), thalamus, hippocampus, and anterior cingulate during a working memory task requiring interference resolution. Methods Twelve nonpsychotic relatives of persons with schizophrenia and 12 healthy control subjects were administered an auditory, verbal working memory version of the Continuous Performance Test during fMRI. An asymmetric, spin-echo, T2*-weighted sequence (15 contiguous, 7-mm axial slices) was acquired on a full-body MR scanner. Data were analyzed by Statistical Parametric Mapping (SPM). Results Compared with control subjects, relatives showed greater task-elicited activation in the PFC and the anterior and dorsomedial thalamus. When task performance was controlled, relatives showed significantly greater activation in the anterior cingulate. When effects of other potentially confounding variables were controlled, relatives generally showed significantly greater activation in the dorsomedial thalamus and anterior cingulate. Conclusions This pilot study suggests that relatives of persons with schizophrenia have subtle differences in brain function in the absence of psychosis. These differences add to the growing literature identifying neurobiological vulnerabilities to schizophrenia.
- Functional magnetic resonance imaging
- Working memory
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Biological Psychiatry