Psychological Medicine

Original Articles

Aberrant intrinsic brain activity and cognitive deficit in first-episode treatment-naive patients with schizophrenia

Z. Hea1a2a3, W. Denga1a2, M. Lia1a2, Z. Chena1a2, L. Jianga1a2, Q. Wanga1a2, C. Huanga1a2, D. A. Colliera4, Q. Gonga5, X. Maa1a2, N. Zhanga6 c2 and T. Lia1a2 c1

a1 The Mental Health Center and the Psychiatric Laboratory, West China Hospital, Sichuan University, Chengdu, Sichuan, China

a2 State Key Laboratory of Biotherapy, West China Hospital, Sichuan University, Chengdu, Sichuan, China

a3 The Fourth People's Hospital of Chengdu, Sichuan, China

a4 MRC SGDP Centre, Institute of Psychiatry, King's College London, UK

a5 Huaxi MR Research Center, Department of Radiology, West China Hospital, Sichuan University, Chengdu, Sichuan, China

a6 Center for Comparative Neuroimaging (CCNI), Department of Psychiatry, University of Massachusetts Medical School, Worcester, MA, USA

Background Given the important role of the default mode network (DMN) in cognitive function and the well-known neurocognitive deficit in schizophrenia, it is intriguing to examine systematically the relationship between neurocognitive dysfunction and aberrant intrinsic activities, and also functional connectivity, of the DMN in patients with schizophrenia.

Method First-episode, treatment-naive patients with schizophrenia (FES) (n = 115) and healthy controls (n = 113) underwent resting-state functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) scans and neurocognitive tests. Intrinsic neural activities evaluated by using the fragment amplitude of low-frequency fluctuations (fALFF) and the resting-state functional connectivity assessed by seed-based correlational analysis were compared between patients and controls. Aberrant intrinsic activities and DMN connectivity in patients were then correlated to neurocognitive performance and clinical symptoms.

Results Compared to controls, patients with FES showed decreased fALFF in the bilateral medial prefrontal cortex (MPFC) and the orbitofrontal cortex (OFC), and increased fALFF in the bilateral putamen. Increased functional connectivity with the DMN was observed in the left insula and bilateral dorsolateral PFC (DLPFC) in patients with FES. In patients, aberrant fALFF in the bilateral OFC were correlated with cognitive processing speed; fALFF in the left OFC and right putamen were correlated with the clinical factors excited/activation and disorganization; and increased DMN functional connectivity in the left insula was correlated with the clinical factors positive, excited/activation, disorganization and neurocognitive deficit in the domain of sustained attention.

Conclusions These associations between neurocognitive dysfunction and aberrant intrinsic activities, and also functional connectivity, of the DMN in patients with schizophrenia may provide important insights into the neural mechanism of the disease.

(Received February 05 2012)

(Revised June 27 2012)

(Accepted June 28 2012)

(Online publication August 10 2012)

Key words

  • Cognitive function;
  • fMRI;
  • resting state;
  • schizophrenia

Correspondence

c1 Address for correspondence: Dr T. Li, The Mental Health Center and the Psychiatric Laboratory, West China Hospital, Sichuan University, Chengdu, Sichuan 610041, China. (Email: xuntao26@hotmail.com) [T. Li]

c2 (Email: Nanyin.Zhang@umassmed.edu) [N. Zhang]

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