Background. There is evidence that, even during remission, schizophrenia (SZ) patients are especially vulnerable to de-compensate under stress, and that they tend to have a high baseline serum cortisol levels. This study was undertaken to determine whether raising serum cortisol by the infusion of hydrocortisone, in the absence of additional psychological stress, would result in different cerebral activity changes in schizophrenic patients compared to normal controls (CON). We were especially interested in cerebral activity in regions such as the medial temporal lobe and hippocampus, since structural abnormalities in these brain regions were frequent in association with schizophrenia. Methods. Serum cortisol levels were raised, by infusing hydrocortisone, in 8 pairwise-matched SZ patients and 8 CONs. The associated regional cerebral activity changes were analyzed using statistical parametric mapping (SPM). Results. There was increased regional cerebral activity in response to elevated cortisol in the left hippocampal region in the SZ group, while the controls showed evidence of decreased regional cerebral activity in the same anatomical location. For the rest of the brain regions, cerebral activity increases and decreases, in response to raised serum cortisol, in the SZ followed the same regional pattern as in the control group, but with a smaller overall magnitude of change. The blunted response in SZ was most marked in the regions that showed greatest regional cerebral activity changes in normal subjects. Conclusion. Patients with schizophrenia showed an abnormal increased regional cerebral activity response to cortisol infusion in the left hippocampal region, and similar but attenuated regional cerebral activity response in other regions, when compared to matched controls.
- Statistical parametric mapping
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Psychiatry and Mental health
- Behavioral Neuroscience
- Biological Psychiatry