, Volume 108, Issue 6, pp 661-670

Disturbed neural circuits in a subtype of chronic catatonic schizophrenia demonstrated by F-18-FDG-PET and F-18-DOPA-PET

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Summary.

Permanent verbal, visual scenic and coenaestetic hallucinations are the most prominent psychopathological symptoms aside from psychomotor disorders in speech-sluggish catatonia, a subtype of chronic catatonic schizophrenia according to Karl Leonhard. These continuous hallucinations serve as an excellent paradigm for the investigation of the assumed functional disturbances of cortical circuits in schizophrenia.

Data from positron emission tomography (F-18-FDG-PET and F-18-DOPA-PET) from three patients with this rare phenotype were available (two cases of simple speech-sluggish catatonia, one case of a combined speech-prompt/speech-sluggish subtype) and were compared with a control collective.

During their permanent hallucinations, all catatonic patients showed a clear bitemporal hypometabolism in the F-18-FDG-PET. Both patients with the simple speech-sluggish catatonia showed an additional bilateral thalamic hypermetabolism and an additional bilateral hypometabolism of the frontal cortex, especially on the left side. In contrast, the patient with the combined speech-prompt/speech-sluggish catatonia showed a bilateral thalamic hypometabolism combined with a bifrontal cortical hypermetabolism. However, the left/right ratio of the frontal cortex also showed a lateralisation effect with a clear relative hypometabolism of the left frontal cortex.

The F-18-DOPA-PET of both schizophrenic patients with simple speech-sluggish catatonia showed a normal F-18-DOPA storage in the striatum, whereas in the right putamen of the patient with the combined form a higher right/left ratio in F-DOPA storage was discernible, indicating an additional lateralized influence of the dopaminergic system in this subtype of chronic catatonic schizophrenia.

Most likely, the prominent bitemporal F-18-FDG- hypometabolism in these chronic schizophrenic patients with speech-sluggish catatonia suffering from permanent continuous hallucinations, reflects a deficit in sensoric gating following prenatal cortical neurodevelopmental disturbances.

However, the functional disturbances underlying hallucinations in "the schizophrenias" seem to be more complex; in different subtypes of the schizophrenic spectrum disorder hallucinations seem to be based on alterations in additional cortical and subcortical brain regions.

Received February 2, 2001; accepted March 30, 2001