Impaired white matter connectivity between regions containing mirror neurons, and relationship to negative symptoms and social cognition, in patients with first-episode schizophrenia
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In schizophrenia, abnormalities in structural connectivity between brain regions known to contain mirror neurons and their relationship to negative symptoms related to a domain of social cognition are not well understood. Diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) scans were acquired in 16 patients with first episode schizophrenia and 16 matched healthy controls. FA and Trace of the tracts interconnecting regions known to be rich in mirror neurons, i.e., anterior cingulate cortex (ACC), inferior parietal lobe (IPL) and premotor cortex (PMC) were evaluated. A significant group effect for Trace was observed in IPL-PMC white matter fiber tract (F (1, 28) = 7.13, p = .012), as well as in the PMC-ACC white matter fiber tract (F (1, 28) = 4.64, p = .040). There were no group differences in FA. In addition, patients with schizophrenia showed a significant positive correlation between the Trace of the left IPL-PMC white matter fiber tract, and the Ability to Feel Intimacy and Closeness score (rho = .57, p = 0.034), and a negative correlation between the Trace of the left PMC-ACC and the Relationships with Friends and Peers score (rho = remove -.54, p = 0.049). We have demonstrated disrupted white mater microstructure within the white matter tracts subserving brain regions containing mirror neurons. We further showed that such structural disruptions might impact negative symptoms and, more specifically, contribute to the inability to feel intimacy (a measure conceptually related to theory of mind) in first episode schizophrenia. Further studies are needed to understand the potential of our results for diagnosis, prognosis and therapeutic interventions.
KeywordsMirror neuron First-episode schizophrenia White matter connectivity Diffusion tensor imaging
This work was supported in part by a Department of Veteran Affairs Merit Award (MES), and in part by NIH grants including 1P50MH080272 CIDAR (RWM, MES), P41 RR13218 (MES), R01 MH 50740 (MES), NA-MIC (NIH) grant U54 GM072977 (MK), 1R01 AG04252 (MK and OP), R01 MH102377 (MK, MES and OP). R01 MH074794 (OP), 2P41 EB015902-16 (OP, MES), the Commonwealth Research Center (SCDMH82101008006; LJS), NARSAD (ZK and OP), Else Kröner-Fresenius Stiftung, Germany (IK), NIMH R21MH094509 (MAN).
Compliance with ethical standards
Conflict of interest
The Authors Yukiko Saito, Marek Kubicki, Inga Koerte, Tatsui Otsuka, Yogesh Rathi, Ofer Pasternak, Sylvain Bouix, Ryan Eckbo, Zora Kikinis, Christian Clemm von Hohenberg, Tomohide Roppongi, Elisabetta Del Re, Takeshi Asami, Sang-Hyuk Lee, Raquelle I. Mesholam-Gately, Larry J. Seidman, James Levitt, Robert W. McCarley, Martha E. Shenton, and Margaret A. Niznikiewicz have declared that there are no conflicts of interest in relation to the subject of this study.
Human and animal rights
All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.
Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.
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