Background: The investigation of large-scale intrinsic connectivity networks in antipsychotic-naïve first-episode schizophrenia increases our understanding of system-level cerebral dysfunction in schizophrenia while enabling control of confounding effects of medication and disease progression. Reports on functional connectivity in antipsychotic-naïve patients have been mixed and the relation between network alterations, psychopathology and cognition is unclear.
Methods: A total number of 47 patients with first-episode schizophrenia who had never received antipsychotic medication and 47 healthy controls were scanned with functional magnetic resonance imaging under resting conditions. Main outcome measures were differences in functional connectivity between groups and the relationship between network alterations, psychopathology and cognition.
Results: Altered connectivity was found between right central executive network (CEN) and right ventral attention network (VAN) (patients > controls, P = .001), left CEN and left VAN (P = .002), and between posterior default mode network and auditory network (P = .006). Association between network connectivity and clinical characteristics was found as interactions between the effects of group and sustained attention (P = .005) and between group and processing speed (P = .007) on the connectivity between right CEN and right VAN.
Conclusions: Our findings suggest that the early phase of schizophrenia is characterized by increased connectivity between fronto-parietal networks suggested to be involved in the control of cognitive and sensory functions. Moreover, the present study suggests that the problem of not disengaging the VAN leads to difficulties with attention and possibly subjective awareness.
Trial registration: ClinicalTrials.gov NCT01154829.