Background: Dissociative symptoms have been constantly found in schizophrenia (SCZ). Traumatic experience seems to relate to dissociative symptoms and brain volume alterations in SCZ. The current study aimed to clarify the inter-relations of dissociative symptoms, traumatic experience, and brain volume in SCZ. Methods: We employed voxel-based morphometry to compare the distributions of gray matter volumes (GMV) in 37 SCZ patients and 26 healthy volunteers (HV). All participants underwent T1-weighted images on a 1.5 T MRI system. Traumatic experience was examined by the Brief Betrayal Trauma Survey. Pathological and non-pathological dissociation were measured by the Dissociative Symptoms Scale and the Dissociative Experiences Scale, respectively. Results: A GMV reduction was found in SCZ patients in the right thalamus. Importantly, a significant group by pathological dissociation interaction was observed in the medial frontal cortex (MFC), bilateral anterior insular area, and precuneus. A negative correlation between MFC/insular GMV and pathological dissociation was observed in HV; higher non-pathological dissociation and smaller volume in MFC/insula were associated with pathological dissociation. In contrast, higher traumatic experience, higher non-pathological dissociation, and larger volume in MFC/insula were associated with pathological dissociation in SCZ. Conclusion: The negative association between MFC/insula GMV and pathological dissociation in HV was not observed in SCZ patients. The absent negative association in SCZ suggests a unique neural underpinning in SCZ with dissociative pathology, in which medial frontal and temporal regions play crucial roles.
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