Analyzing the schizophrenia connectome can identify illness-related alterations in connectivity across the brain. An important question that remains unanswered is whether connectivity alterations are already evident at the onset of illness, before treatment with antipsychotic medication and possible influences of neuroprogressive or secondary alterations related to chronic illness duration. In the present study, diffusion tensor imaging and deterministic fiber tractography were performed with 137 antipsychotic-naive first-episode schizophrenia patients and 113 matched healthy controls. Using graph theoretic analysis, groups were compared in global and regional measurements and modularity of white matter connectivity. Compared with controls, the patients showed significantly decreased total connection strength. Furthermore, patients demonstrated significantly decreased connections within and between brain modules. Several local brain regions within association cortex exhibited reduced nodal centralities and abnormal participant coefficient or intra-module degree, some of which were correlated with illness duration and overall functional disability. In never-treated schizophrenia patients, networks showed a less effective organizational pattern of white matter pathways. White matter disconnectivity occurred not only within but also between multiple modules, shedding light on the deficits of anatomical network organization early in the course of schizophrenia.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Psychiatry and Mental health