Normal Brain Aging Patterns Occur At a Faster Rate in People with Psychosis

Summary: A new study reports patients with psychosis experience accelerated brain aging in the frontoparietal and cingulo-opercular networks.

Source: Elsevier.

Patients with psychosis have accelerated aging of two brain networks important for general cognition–the frontoparietal network (FPN) and cingulo-opercular network (CON)–according to a new study in Biological Psychiatry. Efficiency of the FPN network was normal in early psychosis but reduced in chronic patients, indicating that the decline happens after illness onset. The findings support the idea that intervention to boost these brain networks after early signs of psychosis may help patients have better functional outcomes later in life.

“There is growing evidence that normal biological aging is accelerated in psychotic disorders. One aspect of healthy aging is declining cognitive function and less efficient communication within brain networks supporting cognitive abilities, including planning, problem solving, and memory,” said lead author Julia M. Sheffield, PhD, Vanderbilt University Medical Center. Communication within the FPN and CON networks shows the earliest signs of decline in healthy aging, so the new findings indicate that people with psychosis demonstrate normal patterns of brain aging, but at an accelerated rate.

In the study, Dr. Sheffield and colleagues used brain imaging to compare the connectivity between brain regions–a measure of how efficiently the regions communicate–in 240 patients with psychotic disorder (including schizophrenia and psychotic bipolar disorder) and 178 healthy controls. “The accelerated decline was specific to cognitive networks, providing evidence that accelerated aging is not due to a global reduction in efficient communication across the whole brain,” said Dr. Sheffield.

“The premature ‘aging’ or degeneration of cortical networks has been increasingly documented in association with schizophrenia. However, we have very little insight into the underlying mechanisms. Linking these imaging findings to mechanism is a critical step to understanding the progression of schizophrenia so that we may disrupt it,” said John Krystal, MD, Editor of Biological Psychiatry.

a graph
This graph depicts group differences in network efficiency. Specifically, patients with psychosis showed significantly reduced global efficiency in the frontoparietal and subcortical networks, in comparison to healthy controls. image is credited to Elsevier.

The finding that the decline in network efficiency appeared to begin after illness onset is particularly important for the potential to disrupt this progression. “With advances in cognitive remediation and the positive impact of exercise on connectivity of these networks, our findings provide hope that young adults with recent onset psychosis will benefit from interventions bolstering connectivity within these networks, potentially slowing down or normalizing the rate of decline in efficiency and, therefore, cognitive function,” said Dr. Sheffield.

The findings of the new study help researchers understand how brain networks change over the course of psychotic disorders, and suggest that targeting these networks could disrupt the accelerated rate of normal aging in people with early stages of psychosis.

About this neuroscience research article

Source: Rhiannon Bugno – Elsevier
Publisher: Organized by
Image Source: image is credited to Elsevier.
Original Research: Abstract for “Accelerated Aging of Functional Brain Networks Supporting Cognitive Function in Psychotic Disorders” by Julia M. Sheffield, Baxter P. Rogers, Jennifer U. Blackford, Stephan Heckers, and Neil D. Woodward in Biological Psychiatry. Published January 3 2019.

Cite This Article

[cbtabs][cbtab title=”MLA”]Elsevier”Normal Brain Aging Patterns Occur At a Faster Rate in People with Psychosis.” NeuroscienceNews. NeuroscienceNews, 7 February 2019.
<>.[/cbtab][cbtab title=”APA”]Elsevier(2019, February 7). Normal Brain Aging Patterns Occur At a Faster Rate in People with Psychosis. NeuroscienceNews. Retrieved February 7, 2019 from[/cbtab][cbtab title=”Chicago”]Elsevier”Normal Brain Aging Patterns Occur At a Faster Rate in People with Psychosis.” (accessed February 7, 2019).[/cbtab][/cbtabs]


Accelerated Aging of Functional Brain Networks Supporting Cognitive Function in Psychotic Disorders

Across networks, connectivity within the frontoparietal network (FPN) and cingulo-opercular network (CON) exhibits reductions earliest during healthy aging, contributing to cognitive impairment. Individuals with psychotic disorders demonstrate evidence of accelerated aging across multiple biological systems. By leveraging a large sample of patients with psychosis from early to chronic illness stages, this study sought to determine whether the CON and FPN exhibit evidence of accelerated aging in psychotic disorders, confirm associations between network efficiency and cognition, and determine whether reduced network efficiency is observed in early-stage psychosis.

Resting-state functional magnetic resonance imaging and cognitive data were obtained on 240 patients with psychotic disorder and 178 healthy control participants (HCs). Global efficiency, a measure of functional integration, was calculated for the CON, FPN, subcortical network, and visual network. Associations with age and cognition were assessed and compared between groups.

Consistent with accelerated aging, significant group by age interactions reflected significantly stronger relationships between efficiency and age in patients with psychosis than in HCs for both the CON (psychosis: r = −.37; HC: r = −.16) and FPN (psychosis: r = −.31; HC: r = −.05). Accelerated aging was not observed in either the subcortical or visual network, suggesting specificity for cognitive networks that decline earliest in healthy aging. Replicating prior findings, efficiency of both the CON and FPN correlated with cognitive function across all participants (rs > .11, ps < .031). Furthermore, patients with chronic psychosis (p = .004), but not patients with early psychosis (p = .553), exhibited significantly lower FPN efficiency compared with HCs.

Functional integration of higher-order cognitive networks is intact in early psychosis but exhibits evidence of accelerated aging, suggesting the potential for intervention targeting cognition within the early psychosis period.

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