Background: Impaired insight into illness (clinical insight) in schizophrenia has negative effects on treatment adherence and clinical outcomes. Schizophrenia is described as a disorder of disrupted brain connectivity. In line with this concept, resting state networks (RSNs) appear differentially affected in persons with schizophrenia. Therefore, impaired clinical, or the related construct of cognitive insight (which posits that impaired clinical insight is a function of metacognitive deficits), may reflect alterations in RSN functional connectivity (fc). Based on our previous research, which showed that impaired insight into illness was associated with increased left hemisphere volume relative to right, we hypothesized that impaired clinical insight would be associated with increased connectivity in the DMN with specific left hemisphere brain regions.
Methods: Resting state MRI scans were acquired for participants with schizophrenia or schizoaffective disorder (n=20). Seed-to-voxel and ROI-to-ROI fc analyses were performed using the CONN-fMRI fc toolbox v13 for established RSNs. Clinical and cognitive insight were measured with the Schedule for the Assessment of Insight-Expanded Version and Beck Cognitive Insight Scale, respectively, and included as the regressors in fc analyses.
Results: As hypothesized, impaired clinical insight was associated with increased connectivity in the default mode network (DMN) with the left angular gyrus, and also in the self-referential network (SRN) with the left insula. Cognitive insight was associated with increased connectivity in the dorsal attention network (DAN) with the right inferior frontal cortex (IFC) and left anterior cingulate cortex (ACC).
Conclusion: Increased connectivity in DMN and SRN with the left angular gyrus and insula, respectively, may represent neural correlates of impaired clinical insight in schizophrenia spectrum disorders, and is consistent with the literature attributing impaired insight to left hemisphere dominance. Increased connectivity in the DAN with the IFC and ACC in relation to cognitive insight may facilitate enhanced mental flexibility in this sample.
Keywords: Anosognosia; Cognitive insight; Default mode network; Functional MRI; Illness awareness; Insight; Resting state networks.
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