Abnormal Ventral and Dorsal Attention Network Activity during Single and Dual Target Detection in Schizophrenia

Front Psychol. 2016 Mar 8;7:323. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2016.00323. eCollection 2016.


Early visual perception and attention are impaired in schizophrenia, and these deficits can be observed on target detection tasks. These tasks activate distinct ventral and dorsal brain networks which support stimulus-driven and goal-directed attention, respectively. We used single and dual target rapid serial visual presentation (RSVP) tasks during fMRI with an ROI approach to examine regions within these networks associated with target detection and the attentional blink (AB) in 21 schizophrenia outpatients and 25 healthy controls. In both tasks, letters were targets and numbers were distractors. For the dual target task, the second target (T2) was presented at three different lags after the first target (T1) (lag1 = 100 ms, lag3 = 300 ms, lag7 = 700ms). For both single and dual target tasks, patients identified fewer targets than controls. For the dual target task, both groups showed the expected AB effect with poorer performance at lag 3 than at lags 1 or 7, and there was no group by lag interaction. During the single target task, patients showed abnormally increased deactivation of the temporo-parietal junction (TPJ), a key region of the ventral network. When attention demands were increased during the dual target task, patients showed overactivation of the posterior intraparietal cortex, a key dorsal network region, along with failure to deactivate TPJ. Results suggest inefficient and faulty suppression of salience-oriented processing regions, resulting in increased sensitivity to stimuli in general, and difficulty distinguishing targets from non-targets.

Keywords: RSVP; attentional blink; fMRI; schizophrenia; visual attention.