OBJECTIVE: Because neuroleptic treatment may cause long-lasting changes in brain structure and function, a group of patients with schizophrenia who had never been medicated was recruited to examine regional glucose metabolic rates in the frontal-striato-thalamic circuit. METHOD: Twelve never medicated patients with schizophrenia (seven men, five women; mean age=29 years) and 13 normal volunteers (eight men and five women; mean age=28.5 years) underwent (18)F-fluorodeoxyglucose (FDG) positron emission tomography, and coregistered anatomical magnetic resonance imaging scans were also obtained. During FDG uptake, subjects performed a spatial attention task previously shown to activate the pulvinar region of the thalamus. RESULTS: Diminished regional glucose metabolism was found in the medial dorsal nucleus, posterior thalamus, and prefrontal cortex of patients with schizophrenia relative to normal volunteers, extending earlier results from studies of medicated and previously medicated patients. CONCLUSIONS: The finding of lower relative metabolic rates in the frontothalamic circuits of patients with schizophrenia is consistent with extended circuit deficits involving interactions of frontal executive areas with thalamic sensory and association processes.