Objective: Altered prefrontal cortical function has been repeatedly implicated in the pathophysiology of schizophrenia. Attempts to determine whether this altered function is associated with structural changes in the prefrontal cortex have been hampered by the failure to examine more anatomically and functionally homogeneous regions. The authors have developed a reliable set of anatomical landmarks for subdividing the prefrontal cortex into superior, middle, inferior, and orbital regions, in order to determine whether patients with schizophrenia exhibit selective morphological abnormalities of the prefrontal cortex.
Method: Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) studies were obtained in 24 normal control subjects (14 men and 10 women) and 18 patients with schizophrenia (12 men and six women) by using a high-resolution thin spoiled-gradient recall acquisition in the steady-state protocol. The MRI images were used to determine prefrontal gray matter volumes for the four prefrontal regions and prefrontal total gray and white volumes.
Results: Patients with schizophrenia exhibited selective gray matter volume reductions in the right and left inferior prefrontal cortex. There were no significant group differences in the other prefrontal regions. Patients with schizophrenia also exhibited decreased prefrontal total white matter and total volumes; there was no significant difference in prefrontal total gray matter volume.
Conclusions: Patients with schizophrenia are characterized by relatively selective reductions in inferior prefrontal cortex gray matter volumes.