An fMRI study of working memory in first-degree unaffected relatives of schizophrenia patients

Shashwath A. Meda, Manish Bhattarai, Nicholas A. Morris, Robert S. Astur, Vince D. Calhoun, Daniel H. Mathalon, Kent A. Kiehl, Godfrey D. Pearlson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

48 Scopus citations


Identifying intermediate phenotypes of genetically complex psychiatric illnesses such as schizophrenia is important. First-degree relatives of persons with schizophrenia have increased genetic risk for the disorder and tend to show deficits on working memory (WM) tasks. An open question is the relationship between such behavioral endophenotypes and the corresponding brain activation patterns revealed during functional imaging. We measured task performance during a Sternberg WM task and used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to assess whether 23 non-affected first-degree relatives showed altered performance and functional activation compared to 43 matched healthy controls. We predicted that a significant proportion of unaffected first-degree relatives would show either aberrant task performance and/or abnormal related fMRI blood oxygen level dependent (BOLD) patterns. While task performance in the relatives was not different than that of controls they were significantly slower in responding to probes., Schizophrenia relatives displayed reduced activation, most markedly in bilateral dorsolateral/ventrolateral (DLPFC/VLPFC) prefrontal and posterior parietal cortex when encoding stimuli and in bilateral DLPFC and parietal areas during response selection. Additionally, fMRI differences in both conditions were modulated by load, with a parametric increase in between-group differences with load in several key regions during encoding and an opposite effect during response selection.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)85-95
Number of pages11
JournalSchizophrenia Research
Issue number1-3
StatePublished - Sep 2008
Externally publishedYes


  • Prefrontal cortex
  • Relatives
  • Schizophrenia
  • Sternberg
  • Working memory
  • fMRI

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Biological Psychiatry


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