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Schizophr Bull. 2010 May;36(3):595-606. doi: 10.1093/schbul/sbn118. Epub 2008 Oct 8.

Impaired modulation of attention and emotion in schizophrenia.

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Neurodevelopmental Disorders Research Center.



Fronto-limbic interactions facilitate the generation of task-relevant responses while inhibiting interference from emotionally distracting information. Schizophrenia is associated with deficits in both executive attention and affective regulation. This study aims to elucidate the neural correlates of emotion-attention regulation and shifting in schizophrenia.


We employed functional magnetic resonance imaging to probe the fronto-limbic regions in 16 adults with schizophrenia and 13 matched adults with no history of psychiatric illness. Subjects performed a forced-choice visual oddball task where they detected infrequent target circles embedded in a series of infrequent nontarget aversive and neutral pictures and frequent squares.


In control participants, target events activated a dorsal frontoparietal network, whereas these regions were deactivated by aversive stimuli. Conversely, ventral frontolimbic brain regions were activated by aversive stimuli and deactivated by target events. In the patient group, regional hemodynamic timecourses revealed not only reduced activation to target and aversive events in dorsal executive and ventral limbic regions, respectively, but also reduced deactivation to target and aversive stimuli in ventral and dorsal regions, respectively, relative to the control group. Patients further showed reduced spatial extent of activation in the right inferior frontal gyrus during the target and aversive conditions. Activation of the anterior cingulate to aversive images was inversely related to severity of avolition and anhedonia symptoms in the schizophrenia group.


These results suggest both frontal and limbic dysfunction in schizophrenia as well as aberrant reciprocal inhibitions between these regions during attention-emotion modulation in this disorder.

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