Reward System Dysfunction as a Neural Substrate of Symptom Expression Across the General Population and Patients With Schizophrenia.
ABSTRACT: Dysfunctional patterns of activation in brain reward networks have been suggested as a core element in the pathophysiology of schizophrenia. However, it remains unclear whether this dysfunction is specific to schizophrenia or can be continuously observed across persons with different levels of nonclinical and clinical symptom expression. Therefore, we sought to investigate whether the pattern of reward system dysfunction is consistent with a dimensional or categorical model of psychosis-like symptom expression. 23 patients with schizophrenia and 37 healthy control participants with varying levels of psychosis-like symptoms, separated into 3 groups of low, medium, and high symptom expression underwent event-related functional magnetic resonance imaging while performing a Cued Reinforcement Reaction Time task. We observed lower activation in the ventral striatum during the expectation of high vs no reward to be associated with higher symptom expression across all participants. No significant difference between patients with schizophrenia and healthy participants with high symptom expression was found. However, connectivity between the ventral striatum and the medial orbitofrontal cortex was specifically reduced in patients with schizophrenia. Dysfunctional local activation of the ventral striatum depends less on diagnostic category than on the degree of symptom expression, therefore showing a pattern consistent with a psychosis continuum. In contrast, aberrant connectivity in the reward system is specific to patients with schizophrenia, thereby supporting a categorical view. Thus, the results of the present study provide evidence for both continuous and discontinuous neural substrates of symptom expression across patients with schizophrenia and the general population.
Project description:Striatal abnormalities play a crucial role in the pathophysiology of schizophrenia. Growing evidence suggests an association between aberrant striatal activity during reward anticipation and symptom dimensions in schizophrenia. However, it is not clear whether this holds across the psychosis continuum. The aim of the present study was to investigate alterations of ventral striatal activation during reward anticipation and its relationship to symptom expression in persons with schizotypal personality traits (SPT) and first-episode psychosis. Twenty-six individuals with high SPT, 26 patients with non-affective first-episode psychosis (including 13 with brief psychotic disorder (FEP-BPD) and 13 with first-episode schizophrenia [FEP-SZ]) and 25 healthy controls underwent event-related functional magnetic resonance imaging while performing a variant of the Monetary Incentive Delay task. Ventral striatal activation was positively correlated with total symptom severity, in particular with levels of positive symptoms. This association was observed across the psychosis continuum and within each subgroup. Patients with FEP-SZ showed the strongest elevation of striatal activation during reward anticipation, although symptom levels did not differ between groups in the psychosis continuum. While our results provide evidence that variance in striatal activation is mainly explained by dimensional symptom expression, patients with schizophrenia show an additional dysregulation of striatal activation. Trans-diagnostic approaches are promising in order to disentangle dimensional and categorical neural mechanisms in the psychosis continuum.
Project description:Striatal dysfunction is thought to be a fundamental element in schizophrenia. Striatal dopamine dysfunction impacts on reward processing and learning and is present even at rest. Here, we addressed the question whether and how spontaneous neuronal activity in the striatum is altered in schizophrenia. We therefore assessed intrinsic striatal activity and its relation with disorder states and symptom dimensions in patients with schizophrenia. We performed resting-state functional (rs-fMRI) and structural magnetic resonance imaging as well as psychometric assessment in 21 schizophrenic patients during psychosis. On average 9 months later, we acquired follow-up data during psychotic remission and with comparable levels of antipsychotic medication. Twenty-one age- and sex-matched healthy controls were included in the study. Independent component analysis of fMRI data yielded spatial maps and time-courses of coherent ongoing blood-oxygen-level-dependent signal fluctuations, which were used for group comparisons and correlation analyses with scores of the positive and negative syndrome scale. During psychosis, coherent intrinsic activity of the striatum was increased in the dorsal part and correlated with positive symptoms such as delusion and hallucination. In psychotic remission of the same patients, activity of the ventral striatum was increased and correlated with negative symptoms such as emotional withdrawal and blunted affect. Results were controlled for volumetric and medication effects. These data provide first evidence that in schizophrenia intrinsic activity is changed in the striatum and corresponds to disorder states and symptom dimensions.
Project description:One of the core symptoms of major depressive disorder is anhedonia, an inability to experience pleasure. In patients with major depressive disorder, a dysfunctional reward-system may exist, with blunted temporal difference reward-related learning signals in the ventral striatum and increased temporal difference-related (dopaminergic) activation in the ventral tegmental area. Anhedonia often remains as residual symptom during remission; however, it remains largely unknown whether the abovementioned reward systems are still dysfunctional when patients are in remission. We used a Pavlovian classical conditioning functional MRI task to explore the relationship between anhedonia and the temporal difference-related response of the ventral tegmental area and ventral striatum in medication-free remitted recurrent depression patients (n = 36) versus healthy control subjects (n = 27). Computational modelling was used to obtain the expected temporal difference errors during this task. Patients, compared to healthy controls, showed significantly increased temporal difference reward learning activation in the ventral tegmental area (PFWE,SVC = 0.028). No differences were observed between groups for ventral striatum activity. A group × anhedonia interaction [t(57) = -2.29, P = 0.026] indicated that in patients, higher anhedonia was associated with lower temporal difference activation in the ventral tegmental area, while in healthy controls higher anhedonia was associated with higher ventral tegmental area activation. These findings suggest impaired reward-related learning signals in the ventral tegmental area during remission in patients with depression. This merits further investigation to identify impaired reward-related learning as an endophenotype for recurrent depression. Moreover, the inverse association between reinforcement learning and anhedonia in patients implies an additional disturbing influence of anhedonia on reward-related learning or vice versa, suggesting that the level of anhedonia should be considered in behavioural treatments.
Project description:In the research domain framework (RDoC), dysfunctional reward expectation has been proposed to be a cross-diagnostic domain in psychiatry, which may contribute to symptoms common to various neuropsychiatric conditions, such as anhedonia or apathy/avolition. We used a modified version of the Monetary Incentive Delay (MID) paradigm to obtain functional MRI images from 22 patients with schizophrenia, 24 with depression and 21 controls. Anhedonia and other symptoms of depression, and overall positive and negative symptomatology were also measured. We hypothesized that the two clinical groups would have a reduced activity in the ventral striatum when anticipating reward (compared to anticipation of a neutral outcome) and that striatal activation would correlate with clinical measures of motivational problems and anhedonia. Results were consistent with the first hypothesis: two clusters in both the left and right ventral striatum were found to differ between the groups in reward anticipation. Post-hoc analysis showed that this was due to higher activation in the controls compared to the schizophrenia and the depression groups in the right ventral striatum, with activation differences between depression and controls also seen in the left ventral striatum. No differences were found between the two patient groups, and there were no areas of abnormal cortical activation in either group that survived correction for multiple comparisons. Reduced ventral striatal activity was related to greater anhedonia and overall depressive symptoms in the schizophrenia group, but not in the participants with depression. Findings are discussed in relation to previous literature but overall are supporting evidence of reward system dysfunction across the neuropsychiatric continuum, even if the specific clinical relevance is still not fully understood. We also discuss how the RDoC approach may help to solve some of the replication problems in psychiatric fMRI research.
Project description:Psychotic symptoms frequently occur in Parkinson's disease (PD), but their pathophysiology is poorly understood. According to the National Institute of Health RDoc programme, the pathophysiological basis of neuropsychiatric symptoms may be better understood in terms of dysfunction of underlying domains of neurocognition in a trans-diagnostic fashion. Abnormal cortico-striatal reward processing has been proposed as a key domain contributing to the pathogenesis of psychotic symptoms in schizophrenia. This theory has received empirical support in the study of schizophrenia spectrum disorders and preclinical models of psychosis, but has not been tested in the psychosis associated with PD. We, therefore, investigated brain responses associated with reward expectation and prediction error signaling during reinforcement learning in PD-associated psychosis. An instrumental learning task with monetary gains and losses was conducted during an fMRI study in PD patients with (n?=?12), or without (n?=?17), a history of psychotic symptoms, along with a sample of healthy controls (n?=?24). We conducted region of interest analyses in the ventral striatum (VS), ventromedial prefrontal and posterior cingulate cortices, and whole-brain analyses. There was reduced activation in PD patients with a history of psychosis, compared to those without, in the posterior cingulate cortex and the VS during reward anticipation (p?<?0.05 small volume corrected). The results suggest that cortical and striatal abnormalities in reward processing, a putative pathophysiological mechanism of psychosis in schizophrenia, may also contribute to the pathogenesis of psychotic symptoms in PD. The finding of posterior cingulate dysfunction is in keeping with prior results highlighting cortical dysfunction in the pathogenesis of PD psychosis.
Project description:Increased striatal dopamine synthesis capacity has consistently been reported in patients with schizophrenia. However, the mechanism translating this into behavior and symptoms remains unclear. It has been proposed that heightened striatal dopamine may blunt dopaminergic reward prediction error signaling during reinforcement learning. In this study, we investigated striatal dopamine synthesis capacity, reward prediction errors, and their association in unmedicated schizophrenia patients (n = 19) and healthy controls (n = 23). They took part in FDOPA-PET and underwent functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) scanning, where they performed a reversal-learning paradigm. The groups were compared regarding dopamine synthesis capacity (Kicer), fMRI neural prediction error signals, and the correlation of both. Patients did not differ from controls with respect to striatal Kicer. Taking into account, comorbid alcohol abuse revealed that patients without such abuse showed elevated Kicer in the associative striatum, while those with abuse did not differ from controls. Comparing all patients to controls, patients performed worse during reversal learning and displayed reduced prediction error signaling in the ventral striatum. In controls, Kicer in the limbic striatum correlated with higher reward prediction error signaling, while there was no significant association in patients. Kicer in the associative striatum correlated with higher positive symptoms and blunted reward prediction error signaling was associated with negative symptoms. Our results suggest a dissociation between striatal subregions and symptom domains, with elevated dopamine synthesis capacity in the associative striatum contributing to positive symptoms while blunted prediction error signaling in the ventral striatum related to negative symptoms.
Project description:Alterations in reward processes may underlie motivational and anhedonic symptoms in depression and schizophrenia. However it remains unclear whether these alterations are disorder-specific or shared, and whether they clearly relate to symptom generation or not. We studied brain responses to unexpected rewards during a simulated slot-machine game in 24 patients with depression, 21 patients with schizophrenia, and 21 healthy controls using functional magnetic resonance imaging. We investigated relationships between brain activation, task-related motivation, and questionnaire rated anhedonia. There was reduced activation in the orbitofrontal cortex, ventral striatum, inferior temporal gyrus, and occipital cortex in both depression and schizophrenia in comparison with healthy participants during receipt of unexpected reward. In the medial prefrontal cortex both patient groups showed reduced activation, with activation significantly more abnormal in schizophrenia than depression. Anterior cingulate and medial frontal cortical activation predicted task-related motivation, which in turn predicted anhedonia severity in schizophrenia. Our findings provide evidence for overlapping hypofunction in ventral striatal and orbitofrontal regions in depression and schizophrenia during unexpected reward receipt, and for a relationship between unexpected reward processing in the medial prefrontal cortex and the generation of motivational states.
Project description:Schizophrenia is a psychiatric disorder that is associated with impaired functioning of the fronto-striatal network, in particular during reward processing. However, it is unclear whether this dysfunction is related to the illness itself or whether it reflects a genetic vulnerability to develop schizophrenia. Here, we examined reward processing in unaffected siblings of schizophrenia patients using functional magnetic resonance imaging. Brain activity was measured during reward anticipation and reward outcome in 27 unaffected siblings of schizophrenia patients and 29 healthy volunteers using a modified monetary incentive delay task. Task performance was manipulated online so that all subjects won the same amount of money. Despite equal performance, siblings showed reduced activation in the ventral striatum, insula, and supplementary motor area (SMA) during reward anticipation compared to controls. Decreased ventral striatal activation in siblings was correlated with sub-clinical negative symptoms. During the outcome of reward, siblings showed increased activation in the ventral striatum and orbitofrontal cortex compared to controls. Our finding of decreased activity in the ventral striatum during reward anticipation and increased activity in this region during receiving reward may indicate impaired cue processing in siblings. This is consistent with the notion of dopamine dysfunction typically associated with schizophrenia. Since unaffected siblings share on average 50% of their genes with their ill relatives, these deficits may be related to the genetic vulnerability for schizophrenia.
Project description:Negative symptoms of schizophrenia are debilitating and chronic in nature, are difficult to treat, and contribute to poor functional outcomes. Motivational deficits are a core negative symptom and may involve alterations in reward processing, which involve subcortical regions such as the basal ganglia. More specifically, dopamine-rich regions like the ventral striatum, have been implicated in these reward-processing deficits. Inflammation is one mechanism that may underlie negative symptoms, and specifically motivational deficits, via the effects of inflammatory cytokines on the basal ganglia. Previous work has demonstrated that inflammatory stimuli decrease neural activity in the ventral striatum and decrease connectivity in reward-relevant neural circuitry. The immune system has been shown to be involved in the pathophysiology of schizophrenia, and inflammatory cytokines have been shown to be altered in patients with the disorder. This paper reviews the literature on associations between inflammatory markers and negative symptoms of schizophrenia as well as the role of anti-inflammatory drugs to target negative symptoms. We also review the literature on the role of inflammation and reward processing deficits in both healthy controls and individuals with depression. We use the literature on inflammation and depression as a basis for a model that explores potential mechanisms responsible for inflammation modulating certain aspects of negative symptoms in patients with schizophrenia. This approach may offer novel targets to treat these symptoms of the disorder that are significant barriers to functional recovery and do not respond well to available antipsychotic medications.
Project description:INTRODUCTION: Substantial heterogeneity remains across studies investigating changes in gray matter in schizophrenia. Differences in methodology, heterogeneous symptom patterns and symptom trajectories may contribute to inconsistent findings. To address this problem, we recently proposed to group patients by symptom dimensions, which map on the language, the limbic and the motor systems. The aim of the present study was to investigate whether patients with prevalent symptoms of emotional dysregulation would show structural neuronal abnormalities in the limbic system. METHOD: 43 right-handed medicated patients with schizophrenia were assessed with the Bern Psychopathology Scale (BPS). The patients and a control group of 34 healthy individuals underwent structural imaging at a 3T MRI scanner. Whole brain voxel-based morphometry (VBM) was compared between patient subgroups with different severity of emotional dysregulation. Group comparisons (comparison between patients with severe emotional dysregulation, patients with mild emotional dysregulation, patients with no emotional dysregulation and healthy controls) were performed using a one way ANOVA and ANCOVA respectively. RESULTS: Patients with severe emotional dysregulation had significantly decreased gray matter density in a large cluster including the right ventral striatum and the head of the caudate compared to patients without emotional dysregulation. Comparing patients with severe emotional dysregulation and healthy controls, several clusters of significant decreased GM density were detected in patients, including the right ventral striatum, head of the caudate, left hippocampus, bilateral thalamus, dorsolateral prefrontal and orbitofrontal cortex. The significant effect in the ventral striatum was lost when patients with and without emotional dysregulation were pooled and compared with controls. DISCUSSION: Decreased gray matter density in a large cluster including the right ventral striatum was associated with severe symptoms of emotional dysregulation in patients with schizophrenia. The ventral striatum is an important part of the limbic system, and was indicated to be involved in the generation of incentive salience and psychotic symptoms. Only patients with severe emotional dysregulation had decreased gray matter in several brain structures associated with emotion and reward processing compared to healthy controls. The results support the hypothesis that grouping patients according to specific clinical symptoms matched to the limbic system allows identifying patient subgroups with structural abnormalities in the limbic network.