Background: The notion that schizophrenia patients' (SZ) sense of being detached from external reality is a core feature of the disorder has existed since the early days of its recognition and is still largely emphasized in first person accounts of SZs; however, its etiology, neurophysiological mechanism, and significance for clinical symptoms are unclear. Mind-wandering is a ubiquitous experience of being detached from reality, the underlying neural mechanism of which closely resembles the brain in a resting-state.
Methods: The resting-state functional magnetic resonance imaging data of 33 SZs and 33 matched healthy controls (CNT) were acquired. All subjects answered the mind-wandering subscale of the Imaginal Processing Inventory Questionnaire. Functional connectivity maps were constructed using 82 regions of interest comprising default-mode, salience, and frontoparietal networks.
Results: SZs exhibit significantly higher mind-wandering frequency relative to CNT. The elevated mind-wandering frequency in SZs significantly correlated with positive and general symptom severity. The mind-wandering frequency was inversely correlated with connectivity degree in the right ventromedial prefrontal cortex, the brain region involved in self-experience in SZs.
Conclusions: Our results suggest that self-disturbances in SZs can explain SZs' disconnection to the external world, leading to the manifestation of positive psychotic symptoms. This study demonstrates strong preliminary evidence that contributes significantly to resolve the complex relationship between self, world, and the brain of SZs, which may lie at the "core" of psychotic experiences.
Keywords: Functional connectivity; Mind-wandering; Resting-state fMRI; Schizophrenia; Self-disorder.
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