Functional Connectivity During Visuospatial Processing in Schizophrenia: A Classification Study Using Lasso Regression

Neuropsychiatr Dis Treat. 2021 Apr 14;17:1077-1087. doi: 10.2147/NDT.S304434. eCollection 2021.


Background: Robust evidence shows that schizophrenia is associated with significant cognitive impairments, including deficits in visuospatial abilities. While other cognitive domains have sparked several functional neuroimaging studies in schizophrenia, only a few brain activation studies have examined the neural correlates of visuospatial abilities in schizophrenia.

Purpose: Here, we propose to perform a functional connectivity study on visuospatial processing in schizophrenia, and to determine the classification accuracy of the observed alterations.

Methods: Thirty-nine schizophrenia patients and 42 healthy controls were scanned using functional magnetic resonance imaging while performing a mental rotation task. Task-based functional connectivity was examined using a region-of-interest (ROI) to ROI approach, as implemented in the CONN Toolbox. ROIs were selected from a previous meta-analysis on mental rotation. Logistic regression with Lasso regularization was performed, using train-test cross-validation.

Results: Schizophrenia was associated with a complex pattern of dysconnectivity between the superior, middle and inferior frontal gyrus, the precentral gyrus, the superior parietal lobule (SPL) and the inferior lateral occipital cortex. The classification accuracy was 86.1%. Mental rotation performance was predicted by the dysconnectivity between the right and left superior frontal gyrus (SFG), as well as between the left SFG and left SPL.

Conclusion: The results of the current study highlight that visuospatial processing is useful for examining the widespread dysconnectivity between executive, motor and visual brain regions in schizophrenia. We also demonstrate that very good classification accuracy can be achieved using visuospatial-related functional connectivity data.

Keywords: functional connectivity; machine learning; mental rotation; schizophrenia.

Grant support

This study was funded by an operating grant from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research to AM.