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Brain Connect. 2012;2(6):311-9. doi: 10.1089/brain.2012.0100. Epub 2012 Nov 14.

Conserved functional connectivity but impaired effective connectivity of thalamocortical circuitry in schizophrenia.

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Neuroscience Training Program, University of Wisconsin-Madison, 1202 W. Johnson Street, Madison, WI 53706, USA.


Schizophrenia is a severe mental illness with neurobiological bases that remain elusive. One hypothesis emphasizes disordered thalamic function. We previously used concurrent single pulse transcranial magnetic stimulation (spTMS) and functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to show that individuals with schizophrenia have a decreased spTMS-evoked response in the thalamus, and decreased effective connectivity between thalamus and insula and thalamus and superior frontal gyrus. To better understand the factors that may accompany or account for these findings, we investigated, in the same participants, resting state functional connectivity, white matter structural connectivity, and grey matter integrity. Patients with schizophrenia did not differ from healthy control subjects in resting state functional- or white matter structural connectivity, although they did show decreased measures of grey matter integrity in the insula. However, in this region, the spTMS-evoked response did not differ between groups. In a region of the thalamus that also had grey matter intensity abnormalities, although not at a level that survived correction for multiple comparisons, the spTMS-evoked response in patients was deficient. These results suggest that measures of structure and function are not necessarily complementary. Further, given its sensitivity for identifying deficits not evident with traditional imaging methods, these results highlight the utility of spTMS-fMRI, a method that directly and causally probes effective connectivity, as a tool for studying brain-based disorders.

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