Neural substrate of unrelenting negative symptoms in schizophrenia: a longitudinal resting-state fMRI study

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European Archives of Psychiatry and Clinical Neuroscience





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Developing a mechanistic insight into the specific brain processes that underpin improvement in negative symptoms can help us design novel chemical and physical treatments against these unrelenting symptoms. The aim of the present study is to explore the longitudinal changes in the brain’s regional functional efficiency that accompany improvement in negative symptoms seen in first-episode patients with schizophrenia when treated with antipsychotic for 1 year. Forty-seven first-episode patients with schizophrenia were scanned at a drug-naive baseline state and followed up for 1 year to identify negative symptom responders (Rn) and non-responders (NRn). Fractional amplitude of low-frequency fluctuations (fALFF) and Granger analysis of effective connectivity (EC) were used to examine the different patterns of regional function and connectivity between Rn and NRn during the 1 year follow-up. Increase of fALFF in the left superior temporal gyrus (STG) and increase of EC from the left STG to the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC) was found in Rn compared to NRn. We further validated that the identified changes in fALFF/EC of STG occur specifically in relation to negative symptoms only (i.e., not pseudo-specific in relation to positive, extrapyramidal or depressive symptoms), and occur irrespective of arbitrary clinical categorization of treatment response. An increase in fALFF in the precuneus and the inferior parietal lobule, and a decrease in EC from the left STG to the occipital cortex, were also found at the 1 year follow-up irrespective of improvement in negative symptoms. Interventions that improve the functional efficiency of left STG and its prefrontal connectivity may show efficacy in alleviating negative symptoms in first-episode schizophrenia.