Resting-State Functional Connectivity of the Nucleus Accumbens in Auditory and Visual Hallucinations in Schizophrenia

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Both auditory hallucinations (AH) and visual hallucinations may occur in schizophrenia. One of the main hypotheses underlying their occurrence involves the increased activity of the mesolimbic pathway, which links the ventral tegmental area (VTA) and the nucleus accumbens (NAcc). However, the precise contribution of the mesolimbic pathway in hallucinations across various sensory modalities has not yet been explored. We compared the resting-state functional connectivity (rs-FC) of the NAcc among 16 schizophrenia patients with pure AH, 15 with both visuoauditory hallucinations (VAH), and 14 without hallucinations (NoH). A between-group comparison was performed using random-effects ANCOVA (rs-FC of the bilateral NAcc as the dependent variable, groups as the between-subjects factor, age and Positive and Negative Syndrome Scale scores as covariates; q(false discovery rate [FDR]) < .05). Compared to the NoH group, the AH group exhibited significantly enhanced NAcc rs-FC with the left temporal superior gyrus, the cingulate gyri, and the VTA, whereas the VAH group, compared to the AH group, exhibited significantly enhanced NAcc rs-FC with the bilateral insula, putamen, parahippocampal gyri, and VTA. The strength in rs-FC between the NAcc and the VTA appeared to be positively associated with the presence of hallucinations, but the NAcc FC patterns changed with the complexity of these experiences (ie, 0, 1, or 2 sensory modalities), rather than with severity. This might support the aberrant salience hypothesis of schizophrenia. Moreover, these findings suggest that future clinical and neurobiological studies of hallucinations should evaluate not only the global severity of symptoms but also their sensorial features.

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