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The association between executive dysfunction, brain dysconnectivity, and inflammation is a prominent feature across major psychiatric disorders (MPDs), schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and major depressive disorder. A dimensional approach is warranted to delineate their mechanistic interplay across MPDs.
This single site study included a total of 1543 participants (1058 patients and 485 controls). In total, 1169 participants underwent diffusion tensor and resting-state functional magnetic resonance imaging (745 patients and 379 controls completed the Wisconsin Card Sorting Test). Fractional anisotropy (FA) and regional homogeneity (ReHo) assessed structural and functional connectivity, respectively. Pro-inflammatory cytokine levels [interleukin (IL)-1β, IL-6, and tumor necrosis factor-α] were obtained in 325 participants using blood samples collected with 24 h of scanning. Group differences were determined for main measures, and correlation and mediation analyses and machine learning prediction modeling were performed.
Executive deficits were associated with decreased FA, increased ReHo, and elevated IL-1β and IL-6 levels across MPDs, compared to controls. FA and ReHo alterations in fronto-limbic-striatal regions contributed to executive deficits. IL-1β mediated the association between FA and cognition, and IL-6 mediated the relationship between ReHo and cognition. Executive cognition was better predicted by both brain connectivity and cytokine measures than either one alone for FA-IL-1β and ReHo-IL-6.
Transdiagnostic associations among brain connectivity, inflammation, and executive cognition exist across MPDs, implicating common neurobiological substrates and mechanisms for executive deficits in MPDs. Further, inflammation-related brain dysconnectivity within fronto-limbic-striatal regions may represent a transdiagnostic dimension underlying executive dysfunction that could be leveraged to advance treatment.
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