Paracingulate sulcus morphology and hallucinations in clinical and non-clinical groups

Garrison, J.R., Fernyhough, C., McCarthy-Jones, S., Simons, J.S., & Sommer, I.E.C. (2019). Schizophrenia Bulletin, 45, 733-741.

Hallucinations are a characteristic symptom of psychotic mental health conditions that are also experienced by many individuals without a clinical diagnosis. Research has linked the experience of hallucinations in schizophrenia to differences in the length of the paracingulate sulcus (PCS), a structure in the medial prefrontal cortex of the brain which has previously been associated with the ability to differentiate perceived and imagined information. We investigated whether this notion of a specific morphological basis for hallucinations in the paracingulate cortex extends to individuals without a clinical diagnosis by testing the hypothesis that non-clinical individuals with hallucinations have shorter PCS than nonclinical individuals without hallucinations. Structural MRI scans were examined from three demographically matched groups of individuals: 50 patients with psychotic diagnoses who experienced auditory verbal hallucinations, 50 non-clinical individuals with auditory verbal hallucinations, and 50 healthy control subjects with no life-time history of hallucinations. Measurements of paracingulate sulcal length were compared between the groups and the results verified using automated data-driven gyrification analyses. Patients with hallucinations had shorter PCS than both healthy controls and non-clinical individuals with hallucinations, with no difference between non-clinical individuals with hallucinations and healthy controls. These findings suggest that the association of shorter PCS length with hallucinations is specific to patients with a psychotic disorder. This presents challenges for continuum models of psychosis and suggests possible differences in the mechanisms underlying hallucinations in clinical and non-clinical groups.