BACKGROUND Striatal dysfunction has been proposed as a pathomechanism for negative symptoms in schizophrenia. There is consensus that negative symptoms can be grouped into 2 dimensions: apathy and diminished expression. Recent studies suggest that different neural mechanisms underlie these dimensions, but the relationship between regional resting-state cerebral blood flow (rCBF) and negative symptom dimensions has not been investigated.
METHODS This study included 29 patients with schizophrenia and 20 healthy controls. We measured rCBF in the striatum using arterial spin labelling (ASL) MRI. We assessed negative symptoms using the Brief Negative Symptom Scale.
RESULTS In the ventral and dorsal striatum, rCBF was not different between patients with schizophrenia and controls. However, we did find a positive association between the severity of apathy and increased rCBF in the ventral and dorsal striatum in patients with schizophrenia. This effect was not present for diminished expression.
LIMITATIONS All patients were taking atypical antipsychotics, so an effect of antipsychotic medication on rCBF could not be excluded, although we did not find a significant association between rCBF and chlorpromazine equivalents.
CONCLUSION The main finding of this study was a specific association between increased striatal rCBF and the negative symptom dimension of apathy. Our results further support the separate assessment of apathy and diminished expression when investigating the neural basis of negative symptoms. The ASL technique can provide a direct and quantitative approach to investigating the role of rCBF changes in the pathophysiology of negative symptoms.