Abnormal Resting-State Connectivity in a Substantia Nigra-Related Striato-Thalamo-Cortical Network in a Large Sample of First-Episode Drug-Naïve Patients With Schizophrenia

Matteo Martino, Paola Magioncalda, Hua Yu, Xiaojing Li, Qiang Wang, Yajing Meng, Wei Deng, Yinfei Li, Mingli Li, Xiaohong Ma, Timothy Lane, Niall W Duncan, Georg Northoff, Tao Li

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Objective: The dopamine hypothesis is one of the most influential theories of the neurobiological background of schizophrenia (SCZ). However, direct evidence for abnormal dopamine-related subcortical-cortical circuitry disconnectivity is still lacking. The aim of this study was therefore to test dopamine-related substantia nigra (SN)-based striato-thalamo-cortical resting-state functional connectivity (FC) in SCZ.

Method: Based on our a priori hypothesis, we analyzed a large sample resting-state functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) dataset from first-episode drug-naïve SCZ patients (n = 112) and healthy controls (n = 82) using the SN as the seed region for an investigation of striato-thalamo-cortical FC. This was done in the standard band of slow frequency oscillations and then in its subfrequency bands (Slow4 and Slow5). Results: The analysis showed in SCZ: (1) reciprocal functional hypo-connectivity between SN and striatum, with differential patterns for Slow5 and Slow4; (2) functional hypo-connectivity between striatum and thalamus, as well as functional hyper-connectivity between thalamus and sensorimotor cortical areas, specifically in Slow4; (3) correlation of thalamo-sensorimotor functional hyper-connectivity with psychopathological symptoms. Conclusions: We demonstrate abnormal dopamine-related SN-based striato-thalamo-cortical FC in slow frequency oscillations in first-episode drug-naive SCZ. This suggests that altered dopaminergic function in the SN leads to abnormal neuronal synchronization (as indexed by FC) within subcortical-cortical circuitry, complementing the dopamine hypothesis in SCZ on the regional level of resting-state activity.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)419-431
Number of pages13
JournalSchizophrenia Bulletin
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Feb 15 2018


ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health

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