Effects of ketamine-induced psychopathological symptoms on continuous overt rhyme fluency

Arne Nagels, André Kirner-Veselinovic, Richard Wiese, Frieder M Paulus, Tilo Kircher, Sören Krach


The N-methyl-D-aspartate receptor (NMDAR) has been implicated in the pathophysiology of schizophrenia. Administered to healthy individuals, a subanesthetic dose of the noncompetitive NMDAR antagonist ketamine reproduces several psychopathological symptoms commonly observed in patients with schizophrenia. In a counterbalanced, placebo-controlled, double-blind, within-participants study, fifteen healthy subjects were administered a continuous subanesthetic S-ketamine infusion while cortical activation was measured using functional magnetic resonance imaging. While being scanned, subjects performed an overt word generation task. Ketamine-induced psychopathological symptoms were assessed with the Positive and Negative Syndrome Scale (PANSS). Ketamine administration elicited effects on psychopathology, including difficulties in abstract thinking, lack of spontaneity and flow of conversation as well as formal thought disorder. On a behavioral level, verbal fluency performance was unaffected. The PANSS score for formal thought disorder positively correlated with activation measures encompassing the left superior temporal gyrus, the right middle and inferior frontal gyrus and the precuneus. Difficulty in abstract thinking was correlated with pronounced activations in prefrontal as well as in anterior cingulate regions, whereas hyperactivations in the left superior temporal gyrus were found in association with a lack of spontaneity and flow of conversation. In the absence of behavioral impairments during verbal fluency, NMDAR blocking evoked psychopathological symptoms and cortical activations in regions previously reported in schizophrenia patients. The results provide further support for the hypothesis of an NMDAR dysfunction in the pathophysiology of schizophrenia.

Original languageEnglish
JournalEuropean Archives of Psychiatry and Clinical Neuroscience
Issue number5
Pages (from-to)403-14
Number of pages12
Publication statusPublished - 08.2012


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