Schizophr Res 2019 Dec 2. Epub 2019 Dec 2.
McGovern Institute for Brain Research, Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, MA, USA; Department of Psychology, Northeastern University, Boston, MA, USA.
Multiple lines of evidence suggest that illness development in schizophrenia and other psychotic disorders predates the first psychotic episode by many years. In this study, we examined a sample of 15 pre-adolescent children, ages 7 through 12 years, who are at familial high-risk (FHR) because they have a parent or sibling with a history of schizophrenia or related psychotic disorder. Using multi-voxel pattern analysis (MVPA), a data-driven fMRI analysis, we assessed whole-brain differences in functional connectivity in the FHR sample as compared to an age- and sex-matched control (CON) group of 15 children without a family history of psychosis. MVPA analysis yielded a single cluster in right posterior superior temporal gyrus (pSTG/BA 22) showing significant group-differences in functional connectivity. Post-hoc characterization of this cluster through seed-to-voxel analysis revealed mostly reduced functional connectivity of the pSTG seed to a set of language and default mode network (DMN) associated brain regions including Heschl's gyrus, inferior temporal gyrus extending into fusiform gyrus, (para)hippocampus, thalamus, and a cerebellar cluster encompassing mainly Crus I/II. A height-threshold of whole-brain p < .001 (two-sided), and FDR-corrected cluster-threshold of p < .05 (non-parametric statistics) was used for post-hoc characterization. These findings suggest that abnormalities in functional communication in a network encompassing right STG and associated brain regions are present before adolescence in at-risk children and may be a risk marker for psychosis. Subsequent changes in this functional network across development may contribute to either disease manifestation or resilience in children with a familial vulnerability for psychosis.