Language Lateralization in Unmedicated Patients during an Acute Episode of Schizophrenia: A Functional MRI Study

E.M. Weiss, A. Hofer, S. Golaszewski, C. Siedentopf, S. Felber, and W.W. Fleischhacker, Psychiatry Research, 2006, 146, 185–190.

Abstract: In a previous fMRI study of high-functioning outpatients with remitted schizophrenia, we found that healthy subjects and schizophrenia patients showed similar patterns of activation during a verbal fluency task. However, the activation in controls was primarily in Broca’s area on the left, while it was more bilateral for schizophrenia patients, implicating a reduced language lateralization in schizophrenia patients. The same fMRI procedure was used in this subsequent study to investigate unmedicated patients during an acute episode of schizophrenia. Schizophrenia patients showed reduced language lateralization in the frontal cortex, because of a more bilateral activation of Broca’s area compared with a primarily left hemisphere activation in healthy controls. Furthermore decreased lateralization was correlated to the severity of hallucinations. Although patients with schizophrenia showed a significantly reduced performance on the verbal fluency task when compared with healthy subjects, we were not able to find evidence of decreased language-related activity in the left hemisphere. These results suggest that decreased language lateralization is also evident in unmedicated patients experiencing an acute episode of schizophrenia.