Neural correlates of reality monitoring during adolescence

Lagioia, A.L., Eliez, S., Schneider, M., Simons, J.S., Van der Linden, M., & Debbané, M. (2011). NeuroImage, 55, 1393-1400.

Background: Reality monitoring processes serve the critical function of discriminating between externally derived information and self-generated information. Several reality monitoring studies with healthy adult participants have identified the anterior prefrontal cortex (PFC) as consistently engaged during the recollection of self-generated contextual cues. Furthermore, reduced activity of medial PFC has been linked with schizotypal trait expression of delusion and hallucination-like symptoms in healthy adults undergoing fMRI reality-monitoring tasks. The present study seeks to examine the cerebral underpinnings of reality monitoring during adolescence, a developmental stage where the expression of schizotypal traits may increase risk for psychosis.

Method: A group of 33 adolescents, assessed using the Schizotypal Personality Scale (SPQ), underwent fMRI while performing a reality monitoring task. After an encoding session where the subject or the experimenter read out a series of complete or incomplete word pairs, subjects were presented with the first word of studied word pairs and asked whether the corresponding word had been: (1) perceived or produced (context monitoring),(2) read by the subject or by the experimenter (origin monitoring).

Results: Analyses revealed a common set of activated brain areas during both context and origin monitoring conditions. When compared to context monitoring, origin monitoring was associated with greater activation in anterior PFC within Brodmann area 10 (BA 10). Correlation analyses revealed that reduced signal change in BA 10 during origin monitoring was associated with greater schizotypal trait expression.

Conclusion: Much like adults performing a similar reality monitoring task, adolescents exhibit a common pattern of brain activity during origin and context monitoring, with functional specialization within the prefrontal cortex involving preferential activation of BA 10 during origin monitoring. Greater schizotypal trait expression appears to be significantly associated to reduced BA 10 activity during origin monitoring trials. Results are discussed in relation to cortical specialization within the PFC and trait expression during adolescence.