Dichotic listening, executive functions and grey matter cortical volume in patients with schizophrenia and healthy controls

Research Area: Research Year: 2013
Type of Publication: Article Keywords: MR , Executive functions, Schizophrenia, dichotic listening, grey matter
Authors: Nygård, Merethe; Løberg, Else-Marie; Craven, Alexander R.; Ersland, Lars; Berle, Jan Øystein; Kroken, Rune A.; Johnsen, Erik; Hugdahl, Kenneth
Schizophrenia is characterized by cognitive impairment, especially in relation to executive functions. Brain structural abnormalities are also often seen in schizophrenia although little is known of the relationship between cognitive impairment and structural brain changes. Our aim was therefore to investigate this relationship further using MRI and a dichotic listening (DL) task with simple speech sounds and with instructions to focus attention and report only from the left or right ear stimulus. When instructed to focus attention on the left ear syllable a cognitive conflict is induced requiring the allocation of executive resources to be resolved. Grey matter (GM) volume was measured with MRI from four volumes of interests (VOIs), left and right frontal and temporal cortex, respectively, and correlated with DL performance. The results showed significant differences between the groups in their ability to focus attention on and report the left ear stimulus, which was accompanied by reduced GM volume in the left frontal and right temporal lobe VOIs. There was also a significant positive correlation between left frontal GM volume and performance on the DL task, for the groups combined. The results did not support a conclusion that an impairment in cognitive function in schizophrenia was driven by an corresponding impairment in brain structure, since there were no significant correlations when the groups were analyzed separately. It is however concluded that patients with schizophrenia are impaired in executive functions and that they also show reduced GM volumes in left frontal and right temporal lobe areas, compared to healthy controls.
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