Diagnostic Task Specific Activations in Functional MRI and Aberrant Connectivity of Insula with Middle Frontal Gyrus Can Inform the Differential Diagnosis of Psychosis
We constructed a novel design integrating the administration of a clinical self-assessment scale with simultaneous acquisition of functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI), aiming at cross-validation between psychopathology evaluation and neuroimaging techniques. We hypothesized that areas demonstrating differential activation in two groups of patients (the first group exhibiting paranoid delusions in the context of paranoid schizophrenia—SCH—and second group with a depressive episode in the
... sive episode in the context of major depressive disorder or bipolar disorder—DEP) will have distinct connectivity patterns and structural differences. Fifty-one patients with SCH (n = 25) or DEP (n = 26) were scanned with three different MRI sequences: a structural and two functional sequences—resting-state and task-related fMRI (the stimuli represent items from a paranoid-depressive self-evaluation scale). While no significant differences were found in gray matter volumes, we were able to discriminate between the two clinical entities by identifying two significant clusters of activations in the SCH group—the left Precuneus (PreCu) extending to the left Posterior Cingulate Cortex (PCC) and the right Angular Gyrus (AG). Additionally, the effective connectivity of the middle frontal gyrus (MFG), a part of the Dorsolateral Prefrontal Cortex (DLPFC) to the Anterior Insula (AI), demonstrated a significant difference between the two groups with inhibitory connection demonstrated only in SCH. The observed activations of PreCu, PCC, and AG (involved in the Default Mode Network DMN) might be indirect evidence of the inhibitory connection from the DLPFC to AI, interfering with the balancing function of the insula as the dynamic switch in the DMN. The findings of our current study might suggest that the connectivity from DLPFC to the anterior insula can be interpreted as evidence for the presence of an aberrant network that leads to behavioral abnormalities, the manifestation of which depends on the direction of influence. The reduced effective connectivity from the AI to the DLPFC is manifested as depressive symptoms, and the inhibitory effect from the DLPFC to the AI is reflected in the paranoid symptoms of schizophrenia.