Background: Schizophrenia is characterized by executive functioning deficits, presumably mediated by prefrontal cortex dysfunction. For example, schizophrenia participants show performance deficits on ocular motor delayed response (ODR) tasks, which require both inhibition and spatial working memory for correct performance. Methods: The present functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) study compared neural activity of 14 schizophrenia and 14 normal participants while they performed ODR tasks. Results: Schizophrenia participants generated: 1) more trials with anticipatory saccades (saccades made during the delay period), 2) memory saccades with longer latencies, and 3) memory saccades of decreased accuracy. Increased blood oxygenation level-dependent (BOLD) signal changes were observed in both groups in ocular motor circuitry (e.g., supplementary eye fields [SEF], lateral frontal eye fields [FEF], inferior parietal lobule [IPL], cuneus, and precuneus). The normal, but not the schizophrenia, group demonstrated BOLD signal changes in dorsolateral prefrontal regions (right Brodmann area [BA] 9 and bilateral BA 10), medial FEF, insula, thalamus, and basal ganglia. Correlations between percentage of anticipatory saccade trials and BOLD signal changes were more similar between groups for subcortical regions and less similar for cortical regions. Conclusions: These results suggest that executive functioning deficits in schizophrenia may be associated with dysfunction of the basal ganglia-thalamocortical circuitry, evidenced by decreased prefrontal cortex, basal ganglia, and thalamus activity in the schizophrenia group during ODR task performance.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
This research was supported in part by grants from the National Institute of Mental Health (MH01852) and the Franklin Foundation.
- Memory saccades
- delayed response task
- prefrontal cortex
- spatial working memory