Dysregulation of corticostriatal circuitry has long been thought to be critical in the etiology of psychotic disorders, although the differential roles played by dorsal and ventral systems in mediating risk for psychosis have been contentious.
To use resting-state functional magnetic resonance imaging to characterize disease-related, risk-related, and symptom-related changes of corticostriatal functional circuitry in patients with first-episode psychosis and their unaffected first-degree relatives.
Design, Setting, and Participants
This case-control cross-sectional study was conducted at a specialist early psychosis clinic, GlaxoSmithKline Clinical Unit, and magnetic resonance imaging facility. Nineteen patients with first-episode psychosis, 25 of their unaffected first-degree relatives, and 26 healthy control subjects were included in this study.
Main Outcomes and Measures
Voxelwise statistical parametric maps testing differences in the strength of functional connectivity between 6 striatal seed regions of interest (3 caudate and 3 putamen) per hemisphere and all other brain regions.
Disease-related changes, reflecting differences between patients and control subjects, involved widespread dysregulation of corticostriatal systems characterized most prominently by a dorsal-to-ventral gradient of hypoconnectivity to hyperconnectivity between striatal and prefrontal regions. A similar gradient was evident in comparisons between relatives and control subjects, identifying it as a genetically inherited risk phenotype. In patients, functional connectivity in risk-affected and disease-affected dorsal frontostriatal circuitry correlated with the severity of both positive and negative symptoms.
Conclusions and Relevance
First-episode psychosis is associated with pronounced dysregulation of corticostriatal systems, characterized most prominently by hypoconnectivity of dorsal and hyperconnectivity of ventral frontostriatal circuits. These changes correlate with symptom severity and are also apparent in unaffected first-degree relatives, suggesting that they represent a putative risk phenotype for psychotic illness.