Verbal learning (VL) and fluency (VF) are prominent cognitive deficits in psychosis, of which the precise neuroanatomical contributions are not fully understood. We investigated the arcuate fasciculus (AF) and its associated cortical regions to identify structural abnormalities contributing to these verbal impairments in early stages of psychotic illness.
Twenty-six individuals with recent-onset psychosis and 27 healthy controls underwent cognitive testing (MATRICS Consensus Cognitive Battery) and structural/diffusion-weighted MRI. Bilaterally, AF anisotropy and cortical thickness, surface area and volume of seven cortical regions were investigated in relation to VL and VF performance in both groups.
Reduced right superior temporal gyrus surface area and volume related to better VF in controls. In psychosis, greater right pars opercularis volume and reduced left lateralization of this region related to better VL, while greater right long AF fractional anisotropy and right pars orbitalis volume related to better VF, these findings not present in controls. Psychosis had reduced right pars orbitalis thickness compared to controls.
Anatomical substrates for normal processing of VL and VF appear altered in recent-onset psychosis. A possible aberrant role of the right hemisphere arcuate fasciculus and fronto-temporal cortical regions in psychosis may contribute to deficits in VL and VF.