Structural hippocampal anomalies in a schizophrenia population correlate with navigation performance on a wayfinding task

Front Behav Neurosci. 2014 Mar 14;8:88. doi: 10.3389/fnbeh.2014.00088. eCollection 2014.


Episodic memory, related to the hippocampus, has been found to be impaired in schizophrenia. Further, hippocampal anomalies have also been observed in schizophrenia. This study investigated whether average hippocampal gray matter (GM) would differentiate performance on a hippocampus-dependent memory task in patients with schizophrenia and healthy controls. Twenty-one patients with schizophrenia and 22 control participants were scanned with an MRI while being tested on a wayfinding task in a virtual town (e.g., find the grocery store from the school). Regressions were performed for both groups individually and together using GM and performance on the wayfinding task. Results indicate that controls successfully completed the task more often than patients, took less time, and made fewer errors. Additionally, controls had significantly more hippocampal GM than patients. Poor performance was associated with a GM decrease in the right hippocampus for both groups. Within group regressions found an association between right hippocampi GM and performance in controls and an association between the left hippocampi GM and performance in patients. A second analysis revealed that different anatomical GM regions, known to be associated with the hippocampus, such as the parahippocampal cortex, amygdala, medial, and orbital prefrontal cortices, covaried with the hippocampus in the control group. Interestingly, the cuneus and cingulate gyrus also covaried with the hippocampus in the patient group but the orbital frontal cortex did not, supporting the hypothesis of impaired connectivity between the hippocampus and the frontal cortex in schizophrenia. These results present important implications for creating intervention programs aimed at measuring functional and structural changes in the hippocampus in schizophrenia.

Keywords: VBM; allocentric strategy; episodic memory; hippocampus; psychiatric population; spatial memory.