Impact of glutamate levels on neuronal response and cognitive abilities in schizophrenia

Research Area: Research Year: 2014
Type of Publication: Article Keywords: Combined fMRI-MRS, 1H-MRS, Cognitive control, Anterior cingulate cortex, Inferior parietal lobe, Glutamate, BOLD, Connectivity
Authors: Falkenberg, Liv Eggset; Westerhausen, Rene; Craven, Alexander R.; Johnsen, Erik; Kroken, Rune A.; Løberg, Else-Marie; Specht, Karsten; Hugdahl, Kenneth
Schizophrenia is characterized by impaired cognitive functioning, and brain regions involved in cognitive control processes show marked glutamatergic abnormalities. However, it is presently unclear whether aberrant neuronal response is directly related to the observed deficits at the metabolite level in schizophrenia. Here, 17 medicated schizophrenia patients and 17 matched healthy participants underwent functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) when performing an auditory cognitive control task, as well as proton magnetic resonance spectroscopy (1H-MRS) in order to assess resting-state glutamate in the anterior cingulate cortex. The combined fMRI–1H-MRS analysis revealed that glutamate differentially predicted cortical blood-oxygen level-dependent (BOLD) response in patients and controls. While we found a positive correlation between glutamate and BOLD response bilaterally in the inferior parietal lobes in the patients, the corresponding correlation was negative in the healthy control participants. Further, glutamate levels predicted task performance in patients, such that lower glutamate levels were related to impaired cognitive control functioning. This was not seen for the healthy controls. These findings suggest that schizophrenia patients have a glutamate-related dysregulation of the brain network supporting cognitive control functioning. This could be targeted in future research on glutamatergic treatment of cognitive symptoms in schizophrenia.
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