Functional deficit in the medial prefrontal cortex during a language comprehension task in patients with schizophrenia

Schizophr Res. 2008 Feb;99(1-3):304-11. doi: 10.1016/j.schres.2007.11.016.


Objective: We and others have observed that patients with schizophrenia commonly presented a reduced left recruitment in language semantic brain regions. However, most studies include patients with leftward and rightward lateralizations for language. We investigated whether a cohort comprised purely of patients with typical lateralization (leftward) presented a reduced left recruitment in semantic regions during a language comprehension task. The goal was to reduce the inter-subject variability and thus improve the resolution for studying functional abnormalities in the language network.

Methods: Twenty-three patients with schizophrenia (DSM-IV) were matched with healthy subjects in age, sex, level of education and handedness. All patients exhibited leftward lateralization for language. Functional MRI was performed as subjects listened to a story comprising characters and social interactions. Functional MRI signal variations were analyzed individually and compared among groups.

Results: Although no differences were observed in the recruitment of the semantic language network, patients with schizophrenia presented significantly lower signal variations compared to controls in the medial part of the left superior frontal gyrus (MF1) (x=-6, y=58, z=20; Z(score)=5.6; p<0.001 uncorrected). This region corresponded to the Theory of Mind (ToM) network. Only 5 of the 23 patients (21.7%) and 21 of the 23 (91.3%) control subjects demonstrated a positive signal variation in this area.

Conclusions: A left functional deficit was observed in a core region of the ToM network in patients with schizophrenia and typical lateralizations for language. This functional defect could represent a neural basis for impaired social interaction and communication in patients with schizophrenia.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Cohort Studies
  • Comprehension / physiology*
  • Dominance, Cerebral / physiology
  • Echo-Planar Imaging
  • Female
  • Frontal Lobe / physiopathology
  • Humans
  • Image Processing, Computer-Assisted*
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Nerve Net / physiopathology
  • Oxygen / blood*
  • Personal Construct Theory
  • Prefrontal Cortex / physiopathology*
  • Recruitment, Neurophysiological / physiology
  • Schizophrenia / diagnosis
  • Schizophrenia / physiopathology*
  • Schizophrenic Psychology*
  • Semantics*
  • Speech Perception / physiology*
  • Temporal Lobe / physiopathology


  • Oxygen