Background: Research suggests that altered interregional connectivity in specific networks, such as the default mode network (DMN), is associated with cognitive and psychotic symptoms in schizophrenia. In addition, frontal and limbic connectivity alterations have been associated with trauma, drug use and urban upbringing, though these environmental exposures have never been examined in relation to DMN functional connectivity in psychotic disorder.
Methods: Resting-state functional MRI scans were obtained from 73 patients with psychotic disorder, 83 non-psychotic siblings of patients with psychotic disorder and 72 healthy controls. Posterior cingulate cortex (PCC) seed-based correlation analysis was used to estimate functional connectivity within the DMN. DMN functional connectivity was examined in relation to group (familial risk), group × environmental exposure (to cannabis, developmental trauma and urbanicity) and symptomatology.
Results: There was a significant association between group and PCC connectivity with the inferior parietal lobule (IPL), the precuneus (PCu) and the medial prefrontal cortex (MPFC). Compared to controls, patients and siblings had increased PCC connectivity with the IPL, PCu and MPFC. In the IPL and PCu, the functional connectivity of siblings was intermediate to that of controls and patients. No significant associations were found between DMN connectivity and (subclinical) psychotic/cognitive symptoms. In addition, there were no significant interactions between group and environmental exposures in the model of PCC functional connectivity.
Discussion: Increased functional connectivity in individuals with (increased risk for) psychotic disorder may reflect trait-related network alterations. The within-network "connectivity at rest" intermediate phenotype was not associated with (subclinical) psychotic or cognitive symptoms. The association between familial risk and DMN connectivity was not conditional on environmental exposure.