Aberrant Middle Prefrontal-Motor Cortex Connectivity Mediates Motor Inhibitory Biomarker in Schizophrenia

Biol Psychiatry. 2019 Jan 1;85(1):49-59. doi: 10.1016/j.biopsych.2018.06.007. Epub 2018 Jun 21.


Background: Inhibitory deficits in motor cortex in schizophrenia have been well demonstrated using short-interval intracortical inhibition (SICI) by transcranial magnetic stimulation. However, it remains unknown whether these deficits originate from dysfunction of motor cortex itself or reflect abnormal modulations of motor cortex by other schizophrenia-related brain areas.

Methods: The study was completed by 24 patients with schizophrenia spectrum disorders and 30 healthy control subjects. SICI was obtained by delivering transcranial magnetic stimulation over the left motor cortex. Resting-state functional magnetic resonance imaging and diffusion tensor imaging fractional anisotropy were used to measure functional connectivity (FC) and white matter microstructures, respectively. Stimulation sites for SICI at motor cortex were used as the seeds to obtain whole-brain FC maps. Clinical symptoms were assessed with the Brief Psychiatric Rating Scale.

Results: In schizophrenia, left prefrontal cortex-motor cortex FC was inversely associated with SICI but positively associated with the underlying white matter microstructure at the left corona radiata and also associated with overall symptoms (all corrected p < .05). Mediation analysis showed that the prefrontal-motor cortex FC significantly mediated the corona radiata white matter effects on SICI (p = .007).

Conclusions: Higher resting-state left prefrontal-motor cortex FC, accompanied by a higher fractional anisotropy of left corona radiata, predicted fewer inhibitory deficits, suggesting that the inhibitory deficits in motor cortex in schizophrenia may in part be mediated by a top-down prefrontal influence. SICI may serve as a robust biomarker indexing inhibitory dysfunction at anatomic as well as circuitry levels in schizophrenia.

Keywords: Connectivity; DTI; Motor inhibition; Resting; Schizophrenia; TMS.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Anatomy, Cross-Sectional
  • Biomarkers / analysis
  • Brain Mapping
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Diffusion Tensor Imaging
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Inhibition, Psychological*
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Motor Cortex / pathology*
  • Motor Cortex / physiopathology
  • Prefrontal Cortex / pathology*
  • Prefrontal Cortex / physiopathology
  • Psychiatric Status Rating Scales
  • Schizophrenia / pathology*
  • Schizophrenia / physiopathology*
  • Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation
  • White Matter / pathology
  • Young Adult


  • Biomarkers