Background: An intrinsic cerebral network comprising the anterior cingulate and anterior insula (the salience network) is considered to play an important role in salience detection in healthy volunteers. Aberrant salience has been proposed as an important mechanism in the production of psychotic symptoms such as delusions and hallucinations (reality distortion). We investigated whether structural deficits in the salience network are associated with the reality distortion seen in schizophrenia.
Method: A sample of 57 patients in a clinically stable state of schizophrenia and 41 controls were studied with high-resolution magnetic resonance imaging.
Results: Bilateral volume reduction was seen in the anterior cingulate and anterior insula in patients with schizophrenia. Reduced volume in the two left-sided regions of the salience network was significantly correlated with the severity of reality distortion.
Conclusions: These findings suggest that a deficit of grey matter in the salience network leads to an impaired attribution of salience to stimuli that is associated with delusions and hallucinations in schizophrenia.
© Cambridge University Press 2010