Psychotic Experiences, Working Memory, and the Developing Brain: A Multimodal Neuroimaging Study

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Abstract

Psychotic experiences (PEs) occur in the general population, especially in children and adolescents, and are associated with poor psychosocial outcomes, impaired cognition, and increased risk of transition to psychosis. It is unknown how the presence and persistence of PEs during early adulthood affects cognition and brain function. The current study assessed working memory as well as brain function and structure in 149 individuals, with and without PEs, drawn from a population cohort. Observer-rated PEs were classified as persistent or transient on the basis of longitudinal assessments. Working memory was assessed using the n-back task during fMRI. Dynamic causal modeling (DCM) was used to characterize frontoparietal network configuration and voxel-based morphometry was utilized to examine gray matter. Those with persistent, but not transient, PEs performed worse on the n-back task, compared with controls, yet showed no significant differences in regional brain activation or brain structure. DCM analyses revealed greater emphasis on frontal connectivity within a frontoparietal network in those with PEs compared with controls. We propose that these findings portray an altered configuration of working memory function in the brain, potentially indicative of an adaptive response to atypical development associated with the manifestation of PEs.

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