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Coordination between the thalamus and cortex is necessary for efficient processing of sensory information and appears disrupted in schizophrenia. The significance of this disrupted coordination (i.e. thalamocortical dysconnectivity) to the symptoms and cognitive deficits of schizophrenia is unclear. It is also unknown whether similar dysconnectivity is observed in other forms of psychotic psychopathology and associated with familial risk for psychosis. Here we examine the relevance of thalamocortical connectivity to the clinical symptoms and cognition of patients with psychotic psychopathology, their first-degree biological relatives, and a group of healthy controls.
Patients with a schizophrenia-spectrum diagnosis (N = 100) or bipolar disorder with a history of psychosis (N = 33), their first-degree relatives (N = 73), and a group of healthy controls (N = 43) underwent resting functional MRI in addition to clinical and cognitive assessments as part of the Psychosis Human Connectome Project. A bilateral mediodorsal thalamus seed-based analysis was used to measure thalamocortical connectivity and test for group differences, as well as associations with symptomatology and cognition.
Reduced connectivity from mediodorsal thalamus to insular, orbitofrontal, and cerebellar regions was seen in schizophrenia. Across groups, greater symptomatology was related to less thalamocortical connectivity to the left middle frontal gyrus, anterior cingulate, right insula, and cerebellum. Poorer cognition was related to less thalamocortical connectivity to bilateral insula. Analyses revealed similar patterns of dysconnectivity across patient groups and their relatives.
Reduced thalamo-prefrontal-cerebellar and thalamo-insular connectivity may contribute to clinical symptomatology and cognitive deficits in patients with psychosis as well as individuals with familial risk for psychotic psychopathology.
Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is often complicated by the after-effects of mild traumatic brain injury (mTBI). The mixture of brain conditions results in abnormal affective and cognitive functioning, as well as maladaptive behavior. To better understand how brain activity explains cognitive and emotional processes in these conditions, we used an emotional N-back task and functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to study neural responses in US military veterans after deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan. Additionally, we sought to examine whether hierarchical dimensional models of maladaptive personality could account for the relationship between combat-related brain conditions and fMRI responses under cognitive and affective challenge. FMRI data, measures of PTSD symptomatology (PTSS), blast-induced mTBI (bmTBI) severity, and maladaptive personality (MMPI-2-RF) were gathered from 93 veterans. Brain regions central to emotion regulation were selected for analysis, and consisted of bilateral amygdala, bilateral dorsolateral prefrontal (dlPFC), and ventromedial prefrontal/subgenual anterior cingulate (vmPFC-sgACC). Cognitive load increased activity in dlPFC and reduced activity in emotional responding brain regions. However, individuals with greater PTSS showed blunted deactivations in bilateral amygdala and vmPFC-sgACC, and weaker responses in right dlPFC. Additionally, we found that elevated emotional/internalizing dysfunction (EID), specifically low positive emotionality (RC2), accounted for PTSS-related changes in bilateral amygdala under increased cognitive load. Findings suggest that PTSS might result in amygdala and vmPFC-sgACC activity resistant to moderation by cognitive demands, reflecting emotion dysregulation despite a need to marshal cognitive resources. Anhedonia may be an important target for interventions that improve the affective and cognitive functioning of individuals with PTSD.
Generalization of conditioned-fear, a core feature of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), has been the focus of several recent neuroimaging studies. A striking outcome of these studies is the frequency with which neural correlates of generalization fall within hubs of well-established functional networks including salience (SN), central executive (CEN), and default networks (DN). Neural substrates of generalization found to date may thus reflect traces of large-scale brain networks that form more expansive neural representations of generalization. The present study includes the first network-based analysis of generalization and PTSD-related abnormalities therein.
fMRI responses in established intrinsic connectivity networks (ICNs) representing SN, CEN, and DN were assessed during a generalized conditioned-fear task in male combat veterans (N = 58) with wide-ranging PTSD symptom severity. The task included five rings of graded size. Extreme sizes served as conditioned danger-cues (CS+: paired with shock) and safety-cues (CS−), and the three intermediate sizes served as generalization stimuli (GSs) forming a continuum-of-size between CS+ and CS–. Generalization-gradients were assessed as behavioral and ICN response slopes from CS+, through GSs, to CS–. Increasing PTSD symptomatology was predicted to relate to less-steep slopes indicative of stronger generalization.
SN, CEN, and DN responses fell along generalization-gradients with levels of generalization within and between SN and CEN scaling with PTSD symptom severity.
Neural substrates of generalized conditioned-fear include large-scale networks that adhere to the functional organization of the brain. Current findings implicate levels of generalization in SN and CEN as promising neural markers of PTSD.
Accurate perception of visual contours is essential for seeing and differentiating objects in the environment. Both the ability to detect visual contours and the influence of perceptual context created by surrounding stimuli are diminished in people with schizophrenia (SCZ). The central aim of the present study was to better understand the biological underpinnings of impaired contour integration and weakened effects of perceptual context. Additionally, we sought to determine whether visual perceptual abnormalities reflect genetic factors in SCZ and are present in other severe mental disorders.
We examined behavioral data and event-related potentials (ERPs) collected during the perception of simple linear contours embedded in similar background stimuli in 27 patients with SCZ, 23 patients with bipolar disorder (BP), 23 first-degree relatives of SCZ, and 37 controls.
SCZ exhibited impaired visual contour detection while BP exhibited intermediate performance. The orientation of neighboring stimuli (i.e. flankers) relative to the contour modulated perception across all groups, but SCZ exhibited weakened suppression by the perceptual context created by flankers. Late visual (occipital P2) and cognitive (centroparietal P3) neural responses showed group differences and flanker orientation effects, unlike earlier ERPs (occipital P1 and N1). Moreover, behavioral effects of flanker context on contour perception were correlated with modulation in P2 & P3 amplitudes.
In addition to replicating and extending findings of abnormal contour integration and visual context modulation in SCZ, we provide novel evidence that the abnormal use of perceptual context is associated with higher-order sensory and cognitive processes.
Objectives: One of the most prominent features of schizophrenia is relatively lower general cognitive ability (GCA). An emerging approach to understanding the roots of variation in GCA relies on network properties of the brain. In this multi-center study, we determined global characteristics of brain networks using graph theory and related these to GCA in healthy controls and individuals with schizophrenia. Methods: Participants (N=116 controls, 80 patients with schizophrenia) were recruited from four sites. GCA was represented by the first principal component of a large battery of neurocognitive tests. Graph metrics were derived from diffusion-weighted imaging. Results: The global metrics of longer characteristic path length and reduced overall connectivity predicted lower GCA across groups, and group differences were noted for both variables. Measures of clustering, efficiency, and modularity did not differ across groups or predict GCA. Follow-up analyses investigated three topological types of connectivity—connections among high degree “rich club” nodes, “feeder” connections to these rich club nodes, and “local” connections not involving the rich club. Rich club and local connectivity predicted performance across groups. In a subsample (N=101 controls, 56 patients), a genetic measure reflecting mutation load, based on rare copy number deletions, was associated with longer characteristic path length. Conclusions: Results highlight the importance of characteristic path lengths and rich club connectivity for GCA and provide no evidence for group differences in the relationships between graph metrics and GCA. (JINS, 2016, 22, 240–249)
The ability to accurately judge facial expressions is important in social interactions. Individuals with bipolar disorder have been found to be impaired in emotion recognition; however, the specifics of the impairment are unclear. This study investigated whether facial emotion recognition difficulties in bipolar disorder reflect general cognitive, or emotion-specific, impairments. Impairment in the recognition of particular emotions and the role of processing speed in facial emotion recognition were also investigated.
Clinically stable bipolar patients (n = 17) and healthy controls (n = 50) judged five facial expressions in two presentation types, time-limited and self-paced. An age recognition condition was used as an experimental control.
Bipolar patients’ overall facial recognition ability was unimpaired. However, patients’ specific ability to judge happy expressions under time constraints was impaired.
Findings suggest a deficit in happy emotion recognition impacted by processing speed. Given the limited sample size, further investigation with a larger patient sample is warranted.
This study explored whether remote blast-related MTBI and/or current Axis I psychopathology contribute to neuropsychological outcomes among OEF/OIF veterans with varied combat histories. OEF/OIF veterans underwent structured interviews to evaluate history of blast-related MTBI and psychopathology and were assigned to MTBI (n = 18), Axis I (n = 24), Co-morbid MTBI/Axis I (n = 34), or post-deployment control (n = 28) groups. A main effect for Axis I diagnosis on overall neuropsychological performance was identified (F(3,100) = 4.81; p = .004), with large effect sizes noted for the Axis I only (d = .98) and Co-morbid MTBI/Axis I (d = .95) groups relative to the control group. The latter groups demonstrated primary limitations on measures of learning/memory and processing speed. The MTBI only group demonstrated performances that were not significantly different from the remaining three groups. These findings suggest that a remote history of blast-related MTBI does not contribute to objective cognitive impairment in the late stage of injury. Impairments, when present, are subtle and most likely attributable to PTSD and other psychological conditions. Implications for clinical neuropsychologists and future research are discussed. (JINS, 2012, 18, 1–11)
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