Youth at clinical high risk (CHR) for psychosis can present not only with characteristic attenuated psychotic symptoms but also may have other comorbid conditions, including anxiety and depression. These undifferentiated mood symptoms can overlap with the clinical presentation of youth with Distress syndromes. Increased resting-state functional connectivity within cerebello-thalamo-cortical (CTC) pathways has been proposed as a trait-specific biomarker for CHR. However, it is unclear whether this functional neural signature remains specific when compared to a different risk group: youth with Distress syndromes. The purpose of the present work was to describe CTC alterations that distinguish between CHR and Distressed individuals. Using machine learning algorithms, we analyzed CTC connectivity features of CHR (n = 51), Distressed (n = 41), and healthy control (n = 36) participants. We found four cerebellar (lobes VII and left Crus II anterior/posterior) and two basal ganglia (right putamen and right thalamus) nodes containing a set of specific connectivity features that distinguished between CHR, Distressed and healthy control groups. Hyperconnectivity between medial lobule VIIb, somatomotor network and middle temporal gyrus was associated with CHR status and more severe symptoms. Detailed atlas parcellation suggested that CHR individuals may have dysfunction mainly within the associative (cognitive) pathways, particularly, between those brain areas responsible for the multi-sensory signal integration.
Keywords: Associative loops; CHR; Functional connectivity; Resting state.
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