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Schizophrenia, Autism Clues Surface in Brain Imaging

March 30, 2010
Written by: , Filed in: Neuroradiology
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Using resting-state fMRI to observe patients diagnosed with schizophrenia, researchers from several Chinese universities determined that positive and negative symptoms were associated with different areas of the brain.

Examining the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, superior temporal gyrus, middle temporal gyrus and the hippocampus, researchers noted functional connectivity patterns among them and among other parts of the brain. They saw that significantly increased leftward asymmetry of functional connectivity was linked to positive symptoms and that increased rightward asymmetry of functional connectivity was associated with negative symptoms.

“The strength of the asymmetry in these regions was found to be significantly correlated with symptom ratings obtained using the Positive and Negative Syndrome Scale. These results suggest that predominantly positive and predominantly negative schizophrenia may have different  neural underpinnings, and that certain regions in the frontal and temporal lobes, as well as the cingulate gyrus and precuneus, play important roles in mediating the symptoms of the complex disease. Our study also provided further evidence for the hypothesis that schizophrenia is related to abnormalities in functional brain networks,” said lead researchers Ming Ke, Ran Zou and Hui Shen, as reported in Psychiatry Research Neuroimaging.

Through NIRS, another study through several European universities pointed to the possibility of diagnosing neurodevelopmental disorders, such as autism, at an earlier age. 

Researchers tested seven-month-old infants and found that they correctly processed a speaker’s emotion through his or her spoken words, a success not seen in four-month-old infants. Particularly, the seven-month-old babies’ right temporal cortexes showed increased activity in response to the prosody, or the angry or happy “music” of speech.

“Our findings demonstrate that voice-sensitive brain regions are already specialized and modulated by emotional information by the age of seven months and raise the possibility that the critical neurodevelopmental processes underlying impaired voice-processing reported in disorders like autism might occur before seven months,” said Tobias Grossmann, PhD, one of the study authors. “Therefore, in future work, the current approach could be used to assess individual differences in infants’ responses to voices and emotional prosody and might thus serve as one of potentially multiple markers that can help with an early identification of infants at risk for a neurodevelopmental disorder.” Besides Dr. Grossmann, other researchers included Regine Oberecker, PhD, Stefan Paul Koch, PhD, and Angela D. Friederici, PhD, as reported in Medical News Today.

Related Seminar: Head To Toe Imaging

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