The etiopathophysiology of schizophrenia is incompletely understood. Evidence supports an association between genetic liability for schizophrenia and smooth pursuit eye movement (SPEM) abnormalities, and it has been suggested that SPEM can serve as a phenotype in molecular genetic studies. However, the neural basis of reported abnormalities in SPEM is not well understood, and even less is known about how genetic effects are translated into aberrant neural circuit controlling SPEM. Knowledge of the biological mechanisms underlying SPEM abnormalities and their relationship to the schizophrenia phenotype may provide critical insights into the etiology of this disease. The goal of the proposed research is to combine functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) and SPEM measures to study 1) the underlying neural mechanism of schizophrenia-related SPEM impairments; and 2) the degree to which pursuit-related imaging changes aggregate in families. We have behaviorally modeled the relative contributions of retinal motion and extraretinal motion signals to smooth pursuit maintenance in healthy subjects and in relatives of schizophrenia patients. The results indicate that performance in healthy subjects depends primarily on the predictive, or extraretinal motion input, while relatives of schizophrenia patients show deficits in this component of the pursuit response. This deficit may lead to an increased reliance on the immediate, retinal motion sensory input to maintain smooth pursuit. We hypothesize that this pattern of behavioral abnormality has a neurophysiological basis that will be detectable in fMRI imaging signal as reduced activation in the extraretinal motion processing pathway accompanied by a compensatory increase in activation in regions responsible for retinal motion processing. We further hypothesize that this pattern of neural activity will be present in the clinically unaffected siblings of affected probands, supporting a genetic influence on the neural circuit controlling predictive smooth pursuit deficit in schizophrenia.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH)
Mentored Patient-Oriented Research Career Development Award (K23)
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Behavioral Genetics and Epidemiology Study Section (BGES)
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Wynne, Debra K
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University of Maryland Baltimore
Schools of Medicine
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