Evidence has accumulated to suggest that individuals with schizophrenia are at increased risk for violent offending. Furthermore, converging evidence suggests that abnormalities in the fronto-limbic system, including the prefrontal cortex, hippocampus, and the parahippocampal gyrus, may contribute towards both neuropsychological disturbances in schizophrenia and violent behavior. Since the behavioral and clinical consequences of disturbed fronto-limbic circuitry appear to differ in schizophrenia and violence, it may be argued that patients with schizophrenia who exhibit violent behavior would demonstrate different structural abnormalities compared to their non-violent counterparts. However, the neurobiological basis underlying homicide offenders with schizophrenia remains unclear and little is known regarding the cross-cultural applicability of the findings. Using a 2 × 2 factorial design on a total Chinese sample of 92 males and females, we found reduced gray matter volume in the hippocampus and parahippocampal gyrus in murderers with schizophrenia, in the parahippocampal gyrus in murderers without schizophrenia, and in the prefrontal cortex in non-violent schizophrenia compared to normal controls. Results provide initial evidence demonstrating cross-cultural generalizability of prior fronto-limbic findings on violent schizophrenia. Future studies examining subtle morphological changes in frontal and limbic structures in association with clinical and behavioral characteristics may help further clarify the neurobiological basis of violent behavior.
Keywords: MRI, homicide offenders, gray matter, schizophrenia, prefrontal cortex, limbic structures