Background: A substantial proportion of schizophrenia patients also meets DSM-IV criteria for obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). Schizophrenia with OCD ("schizo-obsessive") patients are characterized by distinct clinical characteristics, treatment response and prognosis. Whether schizo-obsessive patients exhibit a distinct pattern of brain activation is yet unknown. To address this question, the present functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) study explicitly compared alterations in brain activation and functional connectivity (FC) underlying a working memory deficit in schizophrenia patients with and without OCD. Methods: fMRI was applied during the N-back working memory (WM) task in three groups: schizo-obsessive (n= 16), schizophrenia (n= 17) and matched healthy volunteers (n= 20). WM-related activation in the right dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC) and the right caudate nucleus, brain areas relevant to schizophrenia and OCD, and FC analysis were used for the evaluation. Results: The two schizophrenia groups with and without OCD exhibited a similar reduction in activation in the right DLPFC and right caudate, as well as decreased FC compared to the healthy controls. Notably, reduced regional brain activation was not related to severity of schizophrenic or OCD symptoms. Conclusions: Schizo-obsessive patients do not differ from their non-OCD schizophrenia counterparts in brain activation patterns during the N-back WM task. Cognitive paradigms taping alternative neural networks (e.g., orbitofrontal cortex) particularly relevant to OCD, are warranted in the search for potential distinctive brain activation patterns of the schizo-obsessive subgroup.
- Working memory