Functional brain networks before the onset of psychosis: A prospective fMRI study with graph theoretical analysis☆☆☆

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Lord, Louis-David ; Allen, Paul ; Expert, Paul ; Howes, Oliver ; Broome, Matthew ; Lambiotte, Renaud ; Fusar-Poli, Paolo ; Valli, Isabel ; McGuire, Philip ; Turkheimer, Federico E. (2012)

Individuals with an at-risk mental state (ARMS) have a risk of developing a psychotic disorder significantly greater than the general population. However, it is not currently possible to predict which ARMS individuals will develop psychosis from clinical assessment alone. Comparison of ARMS subjects who do, and do not, develop psychosis can reveal which factors are critical for the onset of illness. In the present study, 37 patients with an ARMS were followed clinically at least 24 months subsequent to initial referral. Functional MRI data were collected at the beginning of the follow-up period during performance of an executive task known to recruit frontal lobe networks and to be impaired in psychosis. Graph theoretical analysis was used to compare the organization of a functional brain network in ARMS patients who developed a psychotic disorder following the scan (ARMS-T) to those who did not become ill during the same follow-up period (ARMS-NT) and aged-matched controls. The global properties of each group's representative network were studied (density, efficiency, global average path length) as well as regionally-specific contributions of network nodes to the organization of the system (degree, farness-centrality, betweenness-centrality). We focused our analysis on the dorsal anterior cingulate cortex (ACC), a region known to support executive function that is structurally and functionally impaired in ARMS patients. In the absence of between-group differences in global network organization, we report a significant reduction in the topological centrality of the ACC in the ARMS-T group relative to both ARMS-NT and controls. These results provide evidence that abnormalities in the functional organization of the brain predate the onset of psychosis, and suggest that loss of ACC topological centrality is a potential biomarker for transition to psychosis.
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