Alterations in psychomotor dimension cut across different psychiatric disorders, such as schizophrenia (SCZ) and bipolar disorder (BD). This preliminary study aimed to investigate the organization of intrinsic brain activity in the subcortical-cortical sensorimotor system in SCZ (and BD) as characterized according to psychomotor dimension.
In this resting-state functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) study, functional connectivity (FC) between thalamus and sensorimotor network (SMN), along with FC from substantia nigra (SN) and raphe nuclei (RN) to basal ganglia (BG) and thalamic regions, were investigated by using an a-priori-driven and dimensional approach. This was done in two datasets: SCZ patients showing inhibited psychomotricity (n = 18) vs. controls (n = 19); SCZ patients showing excited psychomotricity (n = 20) vs. controls (n = 108). Data from a third dataset of BD in inhibited depressive or manic phases (reflecting inhibited or excited psychomotricity) were used as control.
SCZ patients suffering from psychomotor inhibition showed decreased thalamus-SMN FC toward around-zero values paralleled by a concomitant reduction of SN-BG/thalamus FC and RN-BG/thalamus FC (as BD patients in inhibited depression). By contrast, SCZ patients suffering from psychomotor excitation exhibited increased thalamus-SMN FC toward positive values paralleled by a concomitant reduction of RN-BG/thalamus FC (as BD patients in mania).
These findings suggest that patients exhibiting low or high levels of psychomotor activity show distinct patterns of thalamus-SMN coupling, which could be traced to specific deficit in SN- or RN-related connectivity. Notably, this was independent from the diagnosis of SCZ or BD, supporting an RDoC-like dimensional approach to psychomotricity.

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