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Dynamic and progressive changes in thalamic functional connectivity over the first five years of psychosis
Molecular Psychiatry  (IF15.992),  Pub Date : 2021-10-25, DOI: 10.1038/s41380-021-01319-3
Shi Yu Chan, Roscoe O. Brady, Kathryn E. Lewandowski, Amy Higgins, Dost Öngür, Mei-Hua Hall

The early stage of psychosis (ESP) is a critical period where effective intervention has the most favorable impact on outcomes. Thalamic connectivity abnormalities have been consistently found in psychosis, and are associated with clinical symptoms and cognitive deficits. However, most studies consider ESP patients as a homogeneous population and fail to take the duration of illness into account. In this study, we aimed to capture the progression of thalamic connectivity changes over the first five years of psychosis. Resting-state functional MRI scans were collected from 156 ESP patients (44 with longitudinal data) and 82 healthy controls (24 with longitudinal data). We first performed a case-control analysis comparing thalamic connectivity with 13 networks in the cortex and cerebellum. Next, we modelled the shape (flat, linear, curvilinear) of thalamic connectivity trajectories by comparing flexible non-linear versus linear models. We then tested the significance of the duration of illness and diagnosis in trajectories that changed over time. Connectivity changed over the ESP period between the thalamus and default mode network (DMN) and fronto-parietal network (FPN) nodes in both the cortex and cerebellum. Three models followed a curvilinear trajectory (early increase followed by a subsequent decrease), while thalamo-cerebellar FPN connectivity followed a linear trajectory of steady reductions over time, indicating different rates of change. Finally, diagnosis significantly predicted thalamic connectivity. Thalamo-cortical and thalamo-cerebellar connectivity change in a dynamic fashion during the ESP period. A better understanding of these changes may provide insights into the compensatory and progressive changes in functional connectivity in the early stages of illness.