Cortico-thalamic hypo- and hyperconnectivity extend consistently to basal ganglia in schizophrenia

Mihai Avram, Felix Brandl, Josef Bäuml, Christian Sorg


Schizophrenia is characterized by hypoconnectivity or decreased intrinsic functional connectivity (iFC) between prefrontal-limbic cortices and thalamic nuclei, as well as hyperconnectivity or increased iFC between primary-sensorimotor cortices and thalamic nuclei. However, cortico-thalamic iFC overlaps with larger, structurally defined cortico-striato-pallido-thalamo-cortical (CSPTC) circuits. If such an overlap is relevant for intrinsic hypo-/hyperconnectivity, it suggests (i) that patterns of cortico-subcortical hypo-/hyperconnectivity extend consistently from thalamus to basal ganglia nuclei; and (ii) such consistent hypo-/hyperconnectivity might link distinctively but consonant with different symptom dimensions, namely cognitive and psychotic impairments. To test this hypothesis, 57 patients with schizophrenia and 61 healthy controls were assessed by resting-state functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) and clinical-behavioral testing. IFC from intrinsic cortical networks into thalamus, striatum, and pallidum was estimated by partial correlations between fMRI time courses. In patients, the salience network covering prefrontal-limbic cortices was hypoconnected with the mediodorsal thalamus and ventral parts of striatum and pallidum; these iFC-hypoconnectivity patterns were correlated both among each other and specifically with patients' impaired cognition. In contrast, the auditory-sensorimotor network covering primary-sensorimotor cortices was hyperconnected with the anterior ventral nucleus of the thalamus and dorsal parts of striatum and pallidum; these iFC-hyperconnectivity patterns were likewise correlated among each other and specifically with patients' psychotic symptoms. The results demonstrate that prefrontal-limbic hypoconnectivity and primary-sensorimotor hyperconnectivity extend consistently across subcortical nuclei and specifically across distinct symptom dimensions. Data support the model of consistent cortico-subcortical hypo-/hyperconnectivity within CSPTC circuits in schizophrenia.

Original languageEnglish
Issue number11
Pages (from-to)2239-2248
Number of pages10
Publication statusPublished - 10.2018

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