Insight and frontal cortical function in schizophrenia: A review

Mujeeb U. Shad, Carol A. Tamminga, Munro Cullum, Gretchen L. Haas, Matcheri S. Keshavan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

126 Scopus citations


Insight into illness has been identified as a clinically important phenomenon, in no small part due to an association with treatment-adherence. An increasing number of studies, but not all, have observed poor insight to be a reflection of cognitive dysfunction in schizophrenia. A review of 34 published English-language studies found a significant number (i.e., 21) reporting a relationship between insight deficits and impaired performance on cognitive tasks primarily mediated by frontal cortex. A significant number of reviewed studies examined insight function in more than one psychiatric population, including bipolar and schizoaffective disorder. The most replicated findings from these studies were the correlations between insight deficits and impaired performance on the Wisconsin Card Sorting Test (WCST). More specifically, WCST perseverative errors correlated positively and the number of categories completed correlated negatively with poor insight, suggesting that impaired insight may be mediated by deficiencies in conceptual organization and flexibility in abstract thinking. Since the WCST requires the ability to demonstrate conceptual flexibility through the generation, maintenance and switching of mental sets along with the capacity to use verbal feedback to correct errors, it would appear that such 'executive' functions are most related to insight. In addition, recently identified structural correlates of poor insight in schizophrenia show some association with anosognosia in neurological patients. This review will discuss the implications of these findings and directions for future research.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)54-70
Number of pages17
JournalSchizophrenia Research
Issue number1-3
StatePublished - Sep 2006


  • Insight
  • Prefrontal function
  • Review
  • Schizophrenia

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Biological Psychiatry


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