Twenty-nine patients with DSM-IV diagnoses of schizophrenia were categorized into deficit syndrome (n = 14) and non-deficit syndrome (n = 15) subgroups on the basis of the Schedule for the Deficit Syndrome. The patients, who had all been free of antipsychotic medication for at least 3 weeks, and 17 sex- and age-matched normal controls were studied with single-photon emission computed tomography with Tc-99m HMPAO. Age at onset, Brief Psychiatric Rating Scale (BPRS) total scores, BPRS positive symptom subscores and duration of illness were similar between the two schizophrenic subgroups. As expected, the deficit patients had more negative symptoms than the non-deficit patients. There were no statistically significant correlations between clinical parameters and regional cerebral blood flow (rCBF) values. The deficit syndrome subgroup showed diminished rCBF in the frontal regions bilaterally, right parietal regions and right superior temporal region compared with the control groups. Deficit patients showed significantly lower rCBF perfusion ratios in the right superior and inferior frontal cortex than did the non-deficit patients. No differences were detected between the controls and the non-deficit schizophrenic patients in terms of rCBF perfusion indices. The results of the present study confirm previous reports of different patterns of rCBF in deficit vs. non-deficit schizophrenic subgroups. (C) 2003 Elsevier Science Ireland Ltd. All rights reserved.