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Schizophrenia Bulletin





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Background: Working memory (WM) deficit is a key feature of schizophrenia that relates to a generalized neural inefficiency of extensive brain areas. To date, it remains unknown how these distributed regions are systemically organized at the connectome level and how the disruption of such organization brings about the WM impairment seen in schizophrenia. Methods: We used graph theory to examine the neural efficiency of the functional connectome in different granularity in 155 patients with schizophrenia and 96 healthy controls during a WM task. These analyses were repeated in another independent dataset (81 patients and 54 controls). Linear regression analysis was used to test associations of altered graph properties, clinical symptoms, and WM accuracy in patients. A machine-learning approach was adopted to study the ability of multivariate connectome features from one dataset to discriminate patients from controls in the second dataset. Results: Small-worldness of the whole-brain connectome was significantly increased in schizophrenia during the WM task; this increase is related to better (though subpar) WM accuracy in patients with more severe negative symptom burden. There was a shift in the degree distribution to a more homogeneous form in patients. The machine-learning approach classified a new set of patients from controls with 84.3% true-positivity rate for schizophrenia and 71.6% overall accuracy. Conclusions: We demonstrate a putative mechanistic link between connectome topology, hub redistribution, and impaired n-back performance in schizophrenia. The task-dependent modulation of the connectome relates to, but remains inefficient in, improving the performance above par in the presence of severe negative symptoms.