FMRI biomarkers of social cognitive skills training in psychosis: Extrinsic and intrinsic functional connectivity

Junghee Lee, Amy M. Jimenez, William P. Horan, Michael F. Green

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Social cognitive skills training interventions for psychotic disorders have shown improvement in social cognitive performance tasks, but little was known about brain-based biomarkers linked to treatment effects. In this pilot study, we examined whether social cognitive skills training could modulate extrinsic and intrinsic functional connectivity in psychosis using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). Twenty-six chronic outpatients with psychotic disorders were recruited from either a Social Cognitive Skills Training (SCST) or an activity- and time-matched control intervention. At baseline and the end of intervention (12 weeks), participants completed two social cognitive tasks: A Facial Affect Matching task and a Mental State Attribution Task, as well as resting-state fMRI (rs-fMRI). Extrinsic functional connectivity was assessed using psychophysiological interaction (PPI) with amygdala and temporo-parietal junction as a seed region for the Facial Affect Matching Task and the Mental State Attribution task, respectively. Intrinsic functional connectivity was assessed with independent component analysis on rs-fMRI, with a focus on the default mode network (DMN). During the Facial Affect Matching task, we observed stronger PPI connectivity in the SCST group after intervention (compared to baseline), but no treatment-related change in the Control group. Neither group showed treatment-related changes in PPI connectivity during the Mental State Attribution task. During rs-fMRI, we found treatment-related changes in the DMN in the SCST group, but not in Control group. This study found that social cognitive skills training modulated both extrinsic and intrinsic functional connectivity in individuals with psychotic disorders after a 12-week intervention. These findings suggest treatment-related changes in functional connectivity as a potential brain-based biomarker of social cognitive skills training.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0214303
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2019
Externally publishedYes

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© 2019 Lee et al.


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