Ventral striatal activation during attribution of stimulus saliency and reward anticipation is correlated in unmedicated first episode schizophrenia patients

Schizophr Res. 2012 Sep;140(1-3):114-21. doi: 10.1016/j.schres.2012.06.025. Epub 2012 Jul 10.


Patients with schizophrenia show deficits in motivation, reward anticipation and salience attribution. Several functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) investigations revealed neurobiological correlates of these deficits, raising the hypothesis of a common basis in midbrain dopaminergic signaling. However, investigations of drug-naïve first-episode patients with comprehensive fMRI tasks are still missing. We recruited unmedicated schizophrenia spectrum patients (N=27) and healthy control subjects (N=27) matched for sex, age and educational levels. An established monetary reward anticipation task in combination with a novel task aiming at implicit salience attribution without the confound of monetary incentive was applied. Patients showed reduced right ventral striatal activation during reward anticipation. Furthermore, patients with a more pronounced hypoactivation attributed more salience to neutral stimuli, had more positive symptoms and better executive functioning. In the patient group, a more differentially active striatum during reward anticipation was correlated positively to differential ventral striatal activation in the implicit salience attribution task. In conclusion, a deficit in ventral striatal activation during reward anticipation can already be seen in drug-naïve, first episode schizophrenia patients. The data suggest that rather a deficit in differential ventral striatal activation than a generally reduced activation underlies motivational deficits in schizophrenia and that this deficit is related to the aberrant salience attribution.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Basal Ganglia / blood supply
  • Basal Ganglia / physiopathology*
  • Female
  • Functional Laterality
  • Humans
  • Image Processing, Computer-Assisted
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Motivation*
  • Neuropsychological Tests
  • Oxygen / blood
  • Photic Stimulation
  • Reaction Time / physiology
  • Recognition, Psychology
  • Reward*
  • Schizophrenia / pathology*
  • Schizophrenia / physiopathology*
  • Statistics as Topic*
  • Young Adult


  • Oxygen