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Schizophrenia (SZ) is associated with thalamic dysconnectivity. Compared to healthy controls (HCs), individuals with SZ have hyperconnectivity with sensory regions, and hypoconnectivity with cerebellar, thalamic, and prefrontal regions. Despite replication of this pattern in chronically ill individuals, less is known about when these abnormalities emerge in the illness course and if they are present prior to illness onset.
Resting-state functional magnetic resonance imaging data were collected from psychosis risk syndrome (PRS) youth (n = 45), early illness SZ (ESZ) (n = 74) patients, and HCs (n = 85). Age-adjusted functional connectivity, seeded from the thalamus, was compared among the groups.
Significant effects of group were observed in left and right middle temporal regions, left and right superior temporal regions, left cerebellum, and bilateral thalamus. Compared to HCs, ESZ demonstrated hyperconnectivity to all temporal lobe regions and reduced connectivity with cerebellar, anterior cingulate, and thalamic regions. Compared to HCs, PRS demonstrated hyperconnectivity with the left and right middle temporal regions, and hypoconnectivity with the cerebellar and other thalamic regions. Compared to PRS participants, ESZ participants were hyperconnected to temporal regions, but did not differ from PRS in hypoconnectivity with cerebellar and thalamic regions. Thalamic dysconnectivity was unrelated to positive symptom severity in ESZ or PRS groups.
PRS individuals demonstrated an intermediate level of thalamic dysconnectivity, whereas ESZ showed a pattern consistent with prior observations in chronic samples. These cross-sectional findings suggest that thalamic dysconnectivity may occur prior to illness onset and become more pronounced in early illness stages.
During vocalization, efference copy/corollary discharge mechanisms suppress the auditory cortical response to self-generated sounds. Previously, we found attenuated vocalization-related auditory cortical suppression in psychosis and a similar trend in the psychosis risk syndrome. Here, we report data from the final sample of early illness schizophrenia patients (ESZ), individuals at clinical high risk for psychosis (CHR), and healthy controls (HC).
Event-related potentials (ERP) were recorded from ESZ (n = 84), CHR (n = 71), and HC (n = 103) participants during a vocalization paradigm. The N1 ERP component was elicited during production (Talk) and playback (Listen) of vocalization. Age effects on N1 suppression (Talk–Listen), Talk N1, and Listen N1 were compared across groups. N1 measures were adjusted for normal aging before testing for group differences.
Both ESZ and CHR groups showed reduced Talk–Listen N1 suppression relative to HC, but did not differ from each other. Listen N1 was reduced in ESZ, but not in CHR, relative to HC. Deficient Talk–Listen N1 suppression was associated with greater unusual thought content in CHR individuals. N1 suppression increased with age in HC (12–36 years), and while CHR individuals showed a similar age-related increase, no such relationship was evident in ESZ.
Putative efference copy/corollary discharge-mediated auditory cortical suppression during vocalization is deficient in ESZ and precedes psychosis onset, particularly in CHR individuals with greater unusual thought content. Furthermore, this suppression increases from adolescence through early adulthood, likely reflecting the effects of normal brain maturation. This maturation effect is disrupted in ESZ, presumably due to countervailing illness effects.
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