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The relationship between default mode network connectivity and social functioning in individuals at familial high-risk for schizophrenia

Schizophrenia Research, 1, 156, pages 87 - 95


Unaffected first-degree relatives of individuals with schizophrenia (i.e., those at familial high-risk [FHR]), demonstrate social dysfunction qualitatively similar though less severe than that of their affected relatives. These social difficulties may be the consequence of genetically conferred disruption to aspects of the default mode network (DMN), such as the dMPFC subsystem, which overlaps with the network of brain regions recruited during social cognitive processes. In the present study, we investigate this possibility, testing DMN connectivity and its relationship to social functioning in FHR using resting-state fMRI. Twenty FHR individuals and 17 controls underwent fMRI during a resting-state scan. Hypothesis-driven functional connectivity analyses examined ROI-to-ROI correlations between the DMN's hubs, and regions of the dMPFC subsystem and MTL subsystem. Connectivity values were examined in relationship to a measure of social functioning and empathy/perspective-taking. Results demonstrate that FHR exhibit reduced connectivity specifically within the dMPFC subsystem of the DMN. Certain ROI-to-ROI correlations predicted aspects of social functioning and empathy/perspective-taking across all participants. Together, the data indicate that disruption to the dMPFC subsystem of the DMN may be associated with familial risk for schizophrenia, and that these intrinsic connections may carry measurable consequences for social functioning.

Keywords: Schizophrenia, Familial high-risk, Default mode network, Functional connectivity, Social functioning, Social cognition.


a Department of Psychology, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA 02138 USA

b Boston VA Medical Center, Brockton, MA 02301 USA

c Department of Psychiatry, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA 02215 USA

lowast Corresponding author at: Department of Psychology, Harvard University, 1008 William James Hall, 33 Kirkland St. Cambridge, MA 02138, USA.

1 Data from a subset of these participants are reported in Dodell-Feder et al. (in press) .