Background. Lack of insight is frequently observed in schizophrenia. Relationships have been noted between poor insight, clinical symptoms and cognitive impairments but the findings are inconsistent. There have been some recent attempts to relate poor insight to neuro-anatomical measures.
Method. We assessed insight, positive and negative symptoms of schizophrenia, cognitive performance, and whole brain volumes in a sample of 78 DSM-IV male schizophrenics and 36 normal male comparison subjects matched for age and IQ. Subjects underwent a dual-echo MRI brain scan to establish grey, white and whole brain volumes.
Results. Poor Wisconsin Card Sorting Test performance inversely correlated with insight in schizophrenic patients, as did the symptoms alogia, anhedonia, avolition/apathy, affective flattening, inappropriate affect, thought disorder and delusions. The presence of inappropriate affect, delusions and thought disorder, showed the most significant impact on insight levels. There were no significant correlations between whole brain, white and grey matter volume and degree of insight.
Conclusions. The results suggest that poor insight is significantly related to schizophrenic psychopathology, and confirm that there is a relationship between insight and executive performance. Awareness of illness is not related to any global brain measures, suggesting future investigations should pay attention to more specific cortical regions such as the frontal cortex.