Default Mode Functional Connectivity Is Associated With Social Functioning in Schizophrenia

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Individuals with schizophrenia display notable deficits in social functioning. Research indicates that neural connectivity within the default mode network (DMN) is related to social cognition and social functioning in healthy and clinical populations. However, the association between DMN connectivity, social cognition, and social functioning has not been studied in schizophrenia. For the present study, the authors used resting-state neuroimaging data to evaluate connectivity between the main DMN hubs (i.e., the medial prefrontal cortex [mPFC] and the posterior cingulate cortex-anterior precuneus [PPC]) in individuals with schizophrenia (n = 28) and controls (n = 32). The authors also examined whether DMN connectivity was associated with social functioning via social attainment (measured by the Specific Levels of Functioning Scale) and social competence (measured by the Social Skills Performance Assessment), and if social cognition mediates the association between DMN connectivity and these measures of social functioning. Results revealed that DMN connectivity did not differ between individuals with schizophrenia and controls. However, connectivity between the mPFC and PCC hubs was significantly associated with social competence and social attainment in individuals with schizophrenia but not in controls as reflected by a significant group-by-connectivity interaction. Social cognition did not mediate the association between DMN connectivity and social functioning in individuals with schizophrenia. The findings suggest that fronto-parietal DMN connectivity in particular may be differentially associated with social functioning in schizophrenia and controls. As a result, DMN connectivity may be used as a neuroimaging marker to monitor treatment response or as a potential target for interventions that aim to enhance social functioning in schizophrenia.

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