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Year: 2010  |  Volume: 133  |  Issue: 10  |  Page No.: 3093 - 3103

Impulsivity-related brain volume deficits in schizophrenia-addiction comorbidity

B Schiffer, B. W Muller, N Scherbaum, M Forsting, J Wiltfang, N Leygraf and E. R. Gizewski


Despite a high prevalence of schizophrenia patients with comorbid substance abuse, little is known about possible impacts on the brain. Hence, our goal was to determine whether addicted and non-addicted schizophrenic patients suffer from different brain deficits. We were especially interested to determine if grey matter volumes were affected by impulsivity. We hypothesized that (comorbid) substance abuse would be associated with enhanced impulsivity and that this enhanced impulsivity would be related to grey matter volume deficits in prefrontal areas. We employed a voxel-based morphometry approach as well as neuropsychological assessment of executive functions and trait impulsivity in 51 participants (age range 23–55). The schizophrenia group comprised 24 patients (12 patients with paranoid schizophrenia and 12 with additional comorbid substance use disorders). The comparison group comprised 27 non-schizophrenic individuals, matched by age and education (14 healthy individuals and 13 patients with substance use disorders). Total grey matter volume deficits were found in all patient groups as compared with healthy controls but were largest (~8%) in both addicted groups. While grey matter volume losses in lateral orbitofrontal and temporal regions were affected by schizophrenia, volume decreases of the medial orbitofrontal, anterior cingulate and frontopolar cortex were associated with addiction. Compared with non-addicted schizophrenics, comorbid patients showed significant volume decreases in anterior cingulate, frontopolar and superior parietal regions. Additionally, they showed an increased non-planning impulsivity that was negatively related to grey matter volumes in the same regions, except for parietal ones. The present study indicates severe grey matter volume and functional executive deficits in schizophrenia, which were only partially exacerbated by comorbid addiction. However, the relationship between non-planning impulsivity and anterior cingulate and frontopolar grey matter volumes points to a specific structure–function relationship that seems to be impaired in schizophrenia-addiction comorbidity.

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