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Reward system dysfunction as a neural substrate of symptom expression across the general population and patients with schizophrenia


Simon, Joe J; Cordeiro, Sheila A; Weber, Marc-André; Friederich, Hans-Christoph; Wolf, Robert C; Weisbrod, Matthias; Kaiser, Stefan (2015). Reward system dysfunction as a neural substrate of symptom expression across the general population and patients with schizophrenia. Schizophrenia Bulletin, 41(6):1370-1378.

Abstract

Dysfunctional patterns of activation in brain reward networks have been suggested as a core element in the pathophysiology of schizophrenia. However, it remains unclear whether this dysfunction is specific to schizophrenia or can be continuously observed across persons with different levels of nonclinical and clinical symptom expression. Therefore, we sought to investigate whether the pattern of reward system dysfunction is consistent with a dimensional or categorical model of psychosis-like symptom expression. 23 patients with schizophrenia and 37 healthy control participants with varying levels of psychosis-like symptoms, separated into 3 groups of low, medium, and high symptom expression underwent event-related functional magnetic resonance imaging while performing a Cued Reinforcement Reaction Time task. We observed lower activation in the ventral striatum during the expectation of high vs no reward to be associated with higher symptom expression across all participants. No significant difference between patients with schizophrenia and healthy participants with high symptom expression was found. However, connectivity between the ventral striatum and the medial orbitofrontal cortex was specifically reduced in patients with schizophrenia. Dysfunctional local activation of the ventral striatum depends less on diagnostic category than on the degree of symptom expression, therefore showing a pattern consistent with a psychosis continuum. In contrast, aberrant connectivity in the reward system is specific to patients with schizophrenia, thereby supporting a categorical view. Thus, the results of the present study provide evidence for both continuous and discontinuous neural substrates of symptom expression across patients with schizophrenia and the general population.

Abstract

Dysfunctional patterns of activation in brain reward networks have been suggested as a core element in the pathophysiology of schizophrenia. However, it remains unclear whether this dysfunction is specific to schizophrenia or can be continuously observed across persons with different levels of nonclinical and clinical symptom expression. Therefore, we sought to investigate whether the pattern of reward system dysfunction is consistent with a dimensional or categorical model of psychosis-like symptom expression. 23 patients with schizophrenia and 37 healthy control participants with varying levels of psychosis-like symptoms, separated into 3 groups of low, medium, and high symptom expression underwent event-related functional magnetic resonance imaging while performing a Cued Reinforcement Reaction Time task. We observed lower activation in the ventral striatum during the expectation of high vs no reward to be associated with higher symptom expression across all participants. No significant difference between patients with schizophrenia and healthy participants with high symptom expression was found. However, connectivity between the ventral striatum and the medial orbitofrontal cortex was specifically reduced in patients with schizophrenia. Dysfunctional local activation of the ventral striatum depends less on diagnostic category than on the degree of symptom expression, therefore showing a pattern consistent with a psychosis continuum. In contrast, aberrant connectivity in the reward system is specific to patients with schizophrenia, thereby supporting a categorical view. Thus, the results of the present study provide evidence for both continuous and discontinuous neural substrates of symptom expression across patients with schizophrenia and the general population.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:04 Faculty of Medicine > Psychiatric University Hospital Zurich > Clinic for Psychiatry, Psychotherapy, and Psychosomatics
Dewey Decimal Classification:610 Medicine & health
Language:English
Date:November 2015
Deposited On:04 Feb 2016 10:30
Last Modified:08 Dec 2017 17:54
Publisher:Oxford University Press
ISSN:0586-7614
Free access at:Publisher DOI. An embargo period may apply.
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1093/schbul/sbv067
PubMed ID:26006262

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