The interaction of working memory and emotion in persons clinically at risk for psychosis: an fMRI pilot study

Schizophr Res. 2010 Jul;120(1-3):167-76. doi: 10.1016/j.schres.2009.12.008. Epub 2010 Jan 6.


Subtle emotional and cognitive dysfunctions may already be apparent in individuals at risk for psychosis. However, there is a paucity of research on the neural correlates of the interaction of both domains. It remains unclear whether those correlates are already dysfunctional before a transition to psychosis. We used functional magnetic resonance imaging to examine the interaction of working memory and emotion in 12 persons clinically at high risk for psychosis (CHR) and 12 healthy subjects individually matched for age, gender and parental education. Participants performed an n-back task while negative or neutral emotion was induced by olfactory stimulation. Although healthy and psychosis-prone subjects did not differ in their working memory performance or the evaluation of the induced emotion, decreased activations were found in CHR subjects in the superior parietal lobe and the precuneus during working memory and in the insula during emotion induction. Looking at the interaction, CHR subjects, showed decreased activation in the right superior temporal gyrus, which correlated negatively with psychopathological scores. Decreased activation was also found in the thalamus. However, an increase of activation emerged in several cerebellar regions. Dysfunctions in areas associated with controlling whether incoming information is linked to emotional content and in the integration of multimodal information might lead to compensatory activations of cerebellar regions known to be involved in olfactory and working memory processes. Our study underlines that cerebral dysfunctions related to cognitive and emotional processes, as well as their interaction, can emerge in persons with CHR, even in absence of behavioral differences.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Brain / blood supply*
  • Brain / pathology
  • Brain Mapping
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Image Processing, Computer-Assisted / methods
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Memory Disorders / etiology*
  • Memory Disorders / pathology*
  • Memory, Short-Term / physiology*
  • Mood Disorders / etiology*
  • Mood Disorders / pathology*
  • Neuropsychological Tests
  • Pilot Projects
  • Psychotic Disorders / complications
  • Statistics as Topic
  • Verbal Learning / physiology
  • Young Adult