The Structural Neuroanatomy of Metacognitive Insight in Schizophrenia and Its Psychopathological and Neuropsychological Correlates

Human Brain Mapping (Impact Factor: 5.97). 09/2014; 35(9). DOI: 10.1002/hbm.22507


Lack of insight into illness is a multidimensional phenomenon that has relevant implications on clinical course and therapy compliance. Here, we focused on metacognitive insight in schizophrenia, that is, the ability to monitor one's changes in state of mind and sensations, with the aim of investigating its neuroanatomical, psychopathological, and neuropsychological correlates. Fifty-seven consecutive patients with Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (Fourth Edition, Text Revision) diagnosis of schizophrenia were administered the Insight Scale, and comprehensive psychopathological and neuropsychological batteries. They underwent a high-resolution T1-weighted magnetic resonance imaging investigation. Gray matter (GM) and white matter (WM) volumes were analyzed on a voxel-by-voxel basis using Statistical Parametric Mapping 8. Reduced metacognitive insight was related to reduced GM volumes in the left ventrolateral prefrontal cortex, right dorsolateral prefrontal cortex and insula, and bilateral premotor area and putamen. Further, it was related to reduced WM volumes of the right superior longitudinal fasciculum, left corona radiata, left forceps minor, and bilateral cingulum. Increased metacognitive insight was related to increased depression severity and attentional control impairment, while the latter was related to increased GM volumes in brain areas linked to metacognitive insight. Results of this study suggest that prefrontal GM and WM bundles, all implied in cognitive control and self-reflection, may be the neuroanatomical correlates of metacognitive insight in schizophrenia. Further, higher metacognitive insight is hypothesized to be a risk factor for depression which may subsequently impair attention. This line of research may provide the basis for the development of cognitive interventions aimed at improving self-monitoring and compliance to treatment. Hum Brain Mapp, 2014. © 2014 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.

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Available from: Maria donata Orfei, Apr 17, 2014
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    ABSTRACT: Background: Impaired insight into illness (clinical insight) in schizophrenia has negative effects on treatment adherence and clinical outcomes. Schizophrenia is described as a disorder of disrupted brain connectivity. In line with this concept, resting state networks (RSNs) appear differentially affected in persons with schizophrenia. Therefore, impaired clinical, or the related construct of cognitive insight (which posits that impaired clinical insight is a function of metacognitive deficits), may reflect alterations in RSN functional connectivity (fc). Based on our previous research, which showed that impaired insight into illness was associated with increased left hemisphere volume relative to right, we hypothesized that impaired clinical insight would be associated with increased connectivity in the DMN with specific left hemisphere brain regions. Methods: Resting state MRI scans were acquired for participants with schizophrenia or schizoaffective disorder (n=20). Seed-to-voxel and ROI-to-ROI fc analyses were performed using the CONN-fMRI fc toolbox v13 for established RSNs. Clinical and cognitive insight were measured with the Schedule for the Assessment of Insight-Expanded Version and Beck Cognitive Insight Scale, respectively, and included as the regressors in fc analyses. Results: As hypothesized, impaired clinical insight was associated with increased connectivity in the default mode network (DMN) with the left angular gyrus, and also in the self-referential network (SRN) with the left insula. Cognitive insight was associated with increased connectivity in the dorsal attention network (DAN) with the right inferior frontal cortex (IFC) and left anterior cingulate cortex (ACC). Conclusion: Increased connectivity in DMN and SRN with the left angular gyrus and insula, respectively, may represent neural correlates of impaired clinical insight in schizophrenia spectrum disorders, and is consistent with the literature attributing impaired insight to left hemisphere dominance. Increased connectivity in the DAN with the IFC and ACC in relation to cognitive insight may facilitate enhanced mental flexibility in this sample.
    Full-text · Article · Nov 2014 · Schizophrenia Research
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    ABSTRACT: While the traditional view within psychiatry is that insight is independent of psychopathology and predicts the course and outcome of psychosis, recent data from India argues that insight is secondary to interaction between progression of illness on one hand and local culture and social environment on the other. The findings suggest that “insight” is an Explanatory Model (EM) and may reflect attempts at coping with the devastating effects of mental disorders. Most societies are pluralistic and offer multiple, divergent and contradictory explanations for illnesses. These beliefs systems interact with the trajectory of the person's illness to produce a unique personal understanding, often based on a set of complex and contradictory EMs. Like all EMs, insight provides meaning to explain and overcome challenges including disabling symptoms, persistent deficits, impaired social relations and difficult livelihood issues. The persistence of distress, impairment, disability and handicap, despite regular and optimal treatment, call for explanations, which go beyond the simplistic concept of disease. People tend to choose EMs, which are non-stigmatizing and which seem to help explain and rationalize their individual concerns. The frequent presence of multiple and often contradictory EMs, held simultaneously, suggest that they are pragmatic responses at coping. The results advocate a non-judgmental approach and broad based assessment of EMs of illness and their comparison with culturally appropriate beliefs, attributions and actions. The biomedical model of illness should be presented without dismissing patient beliefs or belittling local cultural explanations for illness. Clinical practice demands a negotiation of shared model of care and treatment plan between patient and physician perspectives. The diversity of patients, problems, beliefs and cultures mandates the need to educate, match, negotiate and integrate psychiatric and psychological frameworks and interventions. It calls for multifaceted and nuanced understanding of “insight” and explanatory models of illness.
    No preview · Article · Jun 2014 · Asian Journal of Psychiatry
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    ABSTRACT: Background: Awareness of cognitive deficits may be reduced in mild cognitive impairment (MCI). This may have a detrimental effect on illness course and may be a predictor of subsequent conversion to AD. Although neuropsychological correlates have been widely investigated, no evidence of a neuroanatomical basis of the phenomenon has been reported yet. This study was aimed at investigating the neuroanatomical correlates of deficit awareness in amnestic MCI to determine whether they constitute risk factors for conversion to AD. Method: A sample of 36 first-diagnosis amnestic MCI patients were followed for five years. At the first diagnostic visit they were administered an extensive diagnostic and clinical procedure and the Memory Insight Questionnaire (MIQ), measuring a total index and four sub-indices, to investigate awareness of deficits in dementia; they also underwent a high resolution T1-weighted Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) investigation. Grey matter brain volumes were analysed on a voxel-by-voxel basis using Statistical Parametric Mapping 8. Data of 10 converter patients (CONV) and those of 26 non converter patients (NOCONV) were analysed using multiple regression models. Results: At baseline, self-awareness of memory deficits was poorer in CONV compared to NOCONV. Furthermore, reduced awareness of cognitive deficits in CONV correlated with reduced grey matter volume of the anterior cingulate (memory deficit awareness), right pars triangularis of the inferior frontal cortex (memory deficit awareness) and cerebellar vermis (total awareness), whereas in NOCONV it correlated with reduced grey matter volume of left superior (total awareness) and middle (language deficit awareness) temporal areas. Further, at baseline self-awareness of memory deficits were poorer in CONV than in NOCONV. Conclusions: Defective awareness of cognitive deficits is underpinned by different mechanisms in CONV and NOCONV amnestic MCI patients. Our data support the hypothesis that poor awareness of cognitive deficit is a predictor of subsequent conversion to AD.
    Full-text · Article · Dec 2014 · Cortex
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