Evidence for Accelerated Decline of Functional Brain Network Efficiency in Schizophrenia

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Previous work suggests that individuals with schizophrenia display accelerated aging of white matter integrity, however, it is still unknown whether functional brain networks also decline at an elevated rate in schizophrenia. Given the known degradation of functional connectivity and the normal decline in cognitive functioning throughout healthy aging, we aimed to test the hypothesis that efficiency of large-scale functional brain networks supporting overall cognition, as well as integrity of hub nodes within those networks, show evidence of accelerated aging in schizophrenia. Using pseudo-resting state data in 54 healthy controls and 46 schizophrenia patients, in which task-dependent signal from 3 tasks was regressed out to approximate resting-state data, we observed a significant diagnosis by age interaction in the prediction of both global and local efficiency of the cingulo-opercular network, and of the local efficiency of the fronto-parietal network, but no interaction when predicting both default mode network and whole brain efficiency. We also observed a significant diagnosis by age interaction for the node degree of the right anterior insula, left dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, and dorsal anterior cingulate cortex. All interactions were driven by stronger negative associations between age and network metrics in the schizophrenia group than the healthy controls. These data provide evidence that is consistent with accelerated aging of large-scale functional brain networks in schizophrenia that support higher-order cognitive ability.

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