The level of familiarity of a given stimulus plays an important role in memory processing. Indeed, the novelty/familiarity of learned material has been proven to affect the pattern of activations during recognition memory tasks. We used visually presented words to investigate the neural basis of recognition memory for relatively novel and familiar stimuli in schizophrenia. Subjects were 34 healthy volunteers and 19 schizophrenia spectrum patients. Two experimental cognitive conditions were used: 1 week and again 1 day prior to the PET imaging subjects had to thoroughly learn a list of 18 words (well-learned memory). Subjects were also asked to learn another set of 18 words presented 1 min before the PET experiment (novel memory). During the PET session, subjects had to recognize the list of 18 words among 22 new (distractor) words. Subjects also performed a control task (reading words). A nonparametric randomization test and a statistical t-mapping method were used to determine between- and within-group differences. In patients the recognition of novel material produced relatively less flow in several frontal areas, superior temporal gyrus, insular cortex, and parahippocampal areas, and relatively higher activity in parietal areas, visual cortex, and cerebellum, compared to controls. No significant differences in flow were seen when comparing well-learned memory activations between groups. These results suggest that different neural pathways are engaged during novel recognition memory in patients with schizophrenia compared to healthy individuals. During recognition of novel material, patients failed to activate frontal/limbic regions, recruiting a set of posterior perceptual brain regions instead.
Copyright 2001 Wiley-Liss, Inc.