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JAMA Psychiatry. 2014 May;71(5):531-9. doi: 10.1001/jamapsychiatry.2014.9.

Striatal response to reward anticipation: evidence for a systems-level intermediate phenotype for schizophrenia.

Author information

1
Central Institute of Mental Health Mannheim, University of Heidelberg, Medical Faculty Mannheim, Mannheim, Germany.
2
Department of Psychiatry and Psychotherapy, Charité-University Medicine Berlin, Campus Mitte, Berlin, Germany.
3
Institute of Human Genetics, University of Bonn, Bonn, Germany4Institute of Neuroscience and Medicine, Jülich Research Centre, Jülich, Germany.
4
Department of Biomedicine, Aarhus University, Aarhus, Denmark6Department of Genomic Mathematics, University of Bonn, Bonn, Germany.
5
Institute of Human Genetics, University of Bonn, Bonn, Germany4Institute of Neuroscience and Medicine, Jülich Research Centre, Jülich, Germany7Department of Genomics, Life and Brain Research Centre, University of Bonn, Bonn, Germany8Department of Biomedic.
6
Institute of Human Genetics, University of Bonn, Bonn, Germany4Institute of Neuroscience and Medicine, Jülich Research Centre, Jülich, Germany7Department of Genomics, Life and Brain Research Centre, University of Bonn, Bonn, Germany.

Abstract

IMPORTANCE:

Attenuated ventral striatal response during reward anticipation is a core feature of schizophrenia that is seen in prodromal, drug-naive, and chronic schizophrenic patients. Schizophrenia is highly heritable, raising the possibility that this phenotype is related to the genetic risk for the disorder.

OBJECTIVE:

To examine a large sample of healthy first-degree relatives of schizophrenic patients and compare their neural responses to reward anticipation with those of carefully matched controls without a family psychiatric history. To further support the utility of this phenotype, we studied its test-retest reliability, its potential brain structural contributions, and the effects of a protective missense variant in neuregulin 1 (NRG1) linked to schizophrenia by meta-analysis (ie, rs10503929).

DESIGN, SETTING, AND PARTICIPANTS:

Examination of a well-established monetary reward anticipation paradigm during functional magnetic resonance imaging at a university hospital; voxel-based morphometry; test-retest reliability analysis of striatal activations in an independent sample of 25 healthy participants scanned twice with the same task; and imaging genetics analysis of the control group. A total of 54 healthy first-degree relatives of schizophrenic patients and 80 controls matched for demographic, psychological, clinical, and task performance characteristics were studied.

MAIN OUTCOMES AND MEASURES:

Blood oxygen level-dependent response during reward anticipation, analysis of intraclass correlations of functional contrasts, and associations between striatal gray matter volume and NRG1 genotype.

RESULTS:

Compared with controls, healthy first-degree relatives showed a highly significant decrease in ventral striatal activation during reward anticipation (familywise error-corrected P < .03 for multiple comparisons across the whole brain). Supplemental analyses confirmed that the identified systems-level functional phenotype is reliable (with intraclass correlation coefficients of 0.59-0.73), independent of local gray matter volume (with no corresponding group differences and no correlation to function, and with all uncorrected P values >.05), and affected by the NRG1 genotype (higher striatal responses in controls with the protective rs10503929 C allele; familywise error-corrected P < .03 for ventral striatal response).

CONCLUSIONS AND RELEVANCE:

Healthy first-degree relatives of schizophrenic patients show altered striatal activation during reward anticipation in a directionality and localization consistent with prior patient findings. This provides evidence for a functional neural system mechanism related to familial risk. The phenotype can be assessed reliably, is independent of alterations in striatal structure, and is influenced by a schizophrenia candidate gene variant in NRG1. These data encourage us to further investigate the genetic and molecular contributions to this phenotype.

PMID:
24622944
DOI:
10.1001/jamapsychiatry.2014.9
[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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