Increased Intrinsic Brain Activity in the Striatum Reflects Symptom Dimensions in Schizophrenia

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Striatal dysfunction is thought to be a fundamental element in schizophrenia. Striatal dopamine dysfunction impacts on reward processing and learning and is present even at rest. Here, we addressed the question whether and how spontaneous neuronal activity in the striatum is altered in schizophrenia. We therefore assessed intrinsic striatal activity and its relation with disorder states and symptom dimensions in patients with schizophrenia. We performed resting-state functional (rs-fMRI) and structural magnetic resonance imaging as well as psychometric assessment in 21 schizophrenic patients during psychosis. On average 9 months later, we acquired follow-up data during psychotic remission and with comparable levels of antipsychotic medication. Twenty-one age- and sex-matched healthy controls were included in the study. Independent component analysis of fMRI data yielded spatial maps and time-courses of coherent ongoing blood-oxygen-level-dependent signal fluctuations, which were used for group comparisons and correlation analyses with scores of the positive and negative syndrome scale. During psychosis, coherent intrinsic activity of the striatum was increased in the dorsal part and correlated with positive symptoms such as delusion and hallucination. In psychotic remission of the same patients, activity of the ventral striatum was increased and correlated with negative symptoms such as emotional withdrawal and blunted affect. Results were controlled for volumetric and medication effects. These data provide first evidence that in schizophrenia intrinsic activity is changed in the striatum and corresponds to disorder states and symptom dimensions.

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