Evidence of dysfunction of a prefrontal-limbic network in schizophrenia: a magnetic resonance imaging and regional cerebral blood flow study of discordant monozygotic twins

Am J Psychiatry. 1992 Jul;149(7):890-7. doi: 10.1176/ajp.149.7.890.


Objective: The authors previously reported that in monozygotic twins discordant for schizophrenia the affected twin almost invariably had a smaller anterior pes hippocampus, measured with magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), and invariably had less regional cerebral blood flow (rCBF) in the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex during performance of the Wisconsin Card Sorting Test. The present study was an investigation of the relationship between hippocampal pathology and prefrontal hypofunction in the same twin pairs.

Method: Nine pairs of monozygotic twins discordant for schizophrenia underwent MRI scanning for determination of anterior hippocampal volume and xenon-inhalation rCBF testing for determination of prefrontal physiological activation associated with the Wisconsin Card Sorting Test.

Results: The differences within twin pairs on the MRI and rCBF measures were strongly and selectively correlated. Specifically, the more an affected twin differed from the unaffected twin in left hippocampal volume, the more they differed in prefrontal physiological activation during the Wisconsin Card Sorting Test. In the affected twins as a group, prefrontal activation was strongly related to both left and right hippocampal volume. These relationships were not found in the group of unaffected twins.

Conclusions: This finding is consistent with the notion that schizophrenia involves pathology of and dysfunction within a widely distributed neocortical-limbic neural network that has been implicated in, among other activities, the performance of cognitive tasks requiring working memory.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Cerebrovascular Circulation*
  • Cognition / physiology
  • Diseases in Twins
  • Female
  • Frontal Lobe / physiopathology*
  • Hippocampus / pathology*
  • Hippocampus / physiopathology
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging*
  • Male
  • Memory / physiology
  • Neuropsychological Tests
  • Schizophrenia / genetics
  • Schizophrenia / pathology
  • Schizophrenia / physiopathology*
  • Schizophrenic Psychology
  • Twins, Monozygotic