Reduced Frontoparietal Activity in Schizophrenia Is Linked to a Specific Deficit in Goal Maintenance: A Multisite Functional Imaging Study

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Patients with schizophrenia (SZ) previously demonstrated specific deficits in an executive function known as goal maintenance, associated with reduced middle frontal gyrus (MFG) activity. This study aimed to validate a new tool—the Dot Pattern Expectancy (DPX) task—developed to facilitate multisite imaging studies of goal maintenance deficits in SZ or other disorders. Additionally, it sought to arrive at recommendations for scan length for future studies using the DPX. Forty-seven SZ and 56 healthy controls (HC) performed the DPX in 3-Tesla functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) scanners at 5 sites. Group differences in DPX-related activity were examined with whole brain voxelwise analyses. SZs showed the hypothesized specific performance deficits with as little as 1 block of data. Reduced activity in SZ compared with HC was observed in bilateral frontal pole/MFG, as well as left posterior parietal lobe. Efficiency analyses found significant group differences in activity using 18 minutes of scan data but not 12 minutes. Several behavioral and imaging findings from the goal maintenance literature were robustly replicated despite the use of different scanners at different sites. We did not replicate a previous correlation with disorganization symptoms among patients. Results were consistent with an executive/attention network dysfunction in the higher levels of a cascading executive system responsible for goal maintenance. Finally, efficiency analyses found that 18 minutes of scanning during the DPX task is sufficient to detect group differences with a similar sample size.

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