Published online by Cambridge University Press: 13 November 2020
A dysfunctional default mode network (DMN) has been reported in patients with schizophrenia. However, the stability of the deficits has not been determined across different stages of the disorder.
We examined the functional connectivity of the DMN subsystems of 125 patients with first-episode schizophrenia (FES) or recurrent schizophrenia (RES), compared to that of 82 healthy controls. We tested the robustness of the findings in an independent cohort of 158 patients and 39 healthy controls. We performed resting-state functional connectivity analysis, and examined the strength of the connections within and between the three subsystems of the DMN (core, dorsal medial prefrontal cortex [dMPFC], and medial temporal lobe [MTL]). We also analyzed the connectivity correlations to symptoms and illness duration.
We found reduced connectivity strength between the core and MTL subsystems in schizophrenia patients compared to controls, with no differences between the FES and RES patient groups; these findings were validated in the second sample. Schizophrenia patients also showed a significant reduction in connectivity within the MTL and between the dMPFC−MTL subsystems, similarly between FES and RES groups. The connectivity strength within the core subsystem was negatively correlated with clinical symptoms in schizophrenia. There was no significant correlation between the DMN subsystem connectivity and illness duration.
DMN subsystem connectivity deficits are present in schizophrenia, and the homochronicity of their appearance indicates the trait-like nature of these alterations. The DMN deficit may be useful for early diagnosis, and MTL dysfunction may be a crucial mechanism underlying schizophrenia.