The Visual Word Form Area compensates for auditory working memory dysfunction in schizophrenia

Alexander B. Herman, Ethan G. Brown, Corby L. Dale, Leighton B. Hinkley, Karuna Subramaniam, John F. Houde, Melissa Fisher, Sophia Vinogradov, Srikantan S. Nagarajan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Auditory working memory impairments feature prominently in schizophrenia. However, the existence of altered and perhaps compensatory neural dynamics, sub-serving auditory working memory, remains largely unexplored. We compared the dynamics of induced high gamma power (iHGP) across cortex in humans during speech-sound working memory in individuals with schizophrenia (SZ) and healthy comparison subjects (HC) using magnetoencephalography (MEG). SZ showed similar task performance to HC while utilizing different brain regions. During encoding of speech sounds, SZ lacked the correlation of iHGP with task performance in posterior superior temporal gyrus (STGp) that was observed in healthy subjects. Instead, SZ recruited the visual word form area (VWFA) during both stimulus encoding and response preparation. Importantly, VWFA activity during encoding correlated with the magnitude of SZ hallucinations, task performance and an independent measure of verbal working memory. These findings suggest that VWFA plasticity is harnessed to compensate for STGp dysfunction in schizophrenia patients with hallucinations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number8881
JournalScientific reports
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jun 1 2020

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was funded in part by National Institutes of Health grants (R01DC004855, R01DC176960, R01DC010145, R01NS100440, R21NS076171, R01MH068725 and R01DC013979), UCOP MRIP MRP-17– 454755, National Science Foundation grant (BCS 1262297), the Howard Hughes Medical Institute Research Fellowship Program, the US Department of Defense grant (W81XWH-13-1-0494) and the San Francisco Department of Veterans’ Affairs Medical Center.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020, The Author(s).


  • Adult
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Magnetoencephalography
  • Male
  • Memory Disorders/diagnosis
  • Memory, Short-Term/physiology
  • Middle Aged
  • Phonetics
  • Prefrontal Cortex/physiopathology
  • Schizophrenia/physiopathology
  • Schizophrenic Psychology
  • Speech Perception
  • Temporal Lobe/physiopathology
  • Young Adult

PubMed: MeSH publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Journal Article
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural


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