Neurological soft signs (NSS) and brain morphology in patients with chronic schizophrenia and healthy controls
Subtle abnormalities in sensory integration, motor coordination and sequencing of complex motor acts or neurological soft signs (NSS) are characteristic phenomena in patients with schizophrenia at any stage of the illness. Previous MRI studies in schizophrenia found NSS to be associated with cortical, thalamic and cerebellar changes. Since these studies mainly focused on first-episode or recent onset schizophrenia, the cerebral correlates of NSS in chronic schizophrenia remained rather unclear.
... 49 middle-aged patients with chronic schizophrenia with a mean duration of illness of 20.3 ± 14.0 years and 29 healthy subjects matched for age and sex were included. NSS were examined on the Heidelberg Scale and correlated to grey matter (GM) by using whole brain high resolution magnetic resonance imaging (3 Tesla) with SPM12/CAT12 analyses. As expected, NSS in patients were significantly (p≤0.001) elevated in contrast to healthy controls, a finding, which not only applied to NSS total score, but also to the respective subscales "motor coordination", "sensory integration", "complex motor tasks", "right/left and spatial orientation" and "hard signs". Within the patient group NSS total scores were significantly correlated to reduced GM in right lingual gyrus, left parahippocampal gyrus, left superior temporal gyrus, left thalamus (medial dorsal nucleus) and left posterior lobe of the cerebellum (declive). Respective negative associations could also be revealed for the subscales "motor coordination", "complex motor tasks" and "right/left and spatial orientation". These findings remained significant after FWE-correction for multiple comparisons and were confirmed when years of education, chlorpromazine-equivalents or variables indicating the severity of psychopathology were introduced as additional covariates. According to our results lingual, parahippocampal, superior temporal, inferior and middle frontal gyri, thalamus and cerebellum have to be considered as important sites of NSS in chronic schizophrenia. That these findings only applied for patients but not healthy controls may indicate a different pathogenesis of NSS.