Image_2_Development of Structural Covariance From Childhood to Adolescence: A Longitudinal Study in 22q11.2DS.PDF

Background: Schizophrenia is currently considered a neurodevelopmental disorder of connectivity. Still few studies have investigated how brain networks develop in children and adolescents who are at risk for developing psychosis. 22q11.2 Deletion Syndrome (22q11DS) offers a unique opportunity to investigate the pathogenesis of schizophrenia from a neurodevelopmental perspective. Structural covariance (SC) is a powerful approach to explore morphometric relations between brain regions that can furthermore detect biomarkers of psychosis, both in 22q11DS and in the general population.

Methods: Here we implement a state-of-the-art sliding-window approach to characterize maturation of SC network architecture in a large longitudinal cohort of patients with 22q11DS (110 with 221 visits) and healthy controls (117 with 211 visits). We furthermore propose a new clustering-based approach to group regions according to trajectories of structural connectivity maturation. We correlate measures of SC with development of working memory, a core executive function that is highly affected in both idiopathic psychosis and 22q11DS. Finally, in 22q11DS we explore correlations between SC dysconnectivity and severity of internalizing psychopathology.

Results: In HCs network architecture underwent a quadratic developmental trajectory maturing up to mid-adolescence. Late-childhood maturation was particularly evident for fronto-parietal cortices, while Default-Mode-Network-related regions showed a more protracted linear development. Working memory performance was positively correlated with network segregation and fronto-parietal connectivity. In 22q11DS, we demonstrate aberrant maturation of SC with disturbed architecture selectively emerging during adolescence and correlating more severe internalizing psychopathology. Patients also presented a lack of typical network development during late-childhood, that was particularly prominent for frontal connectivity.

Conclusions: Our results suggest that SC maturation may underlie critical cognitive development occurring during late-childhood in healthy controls. Aberrant trajectories of SC maturation may reflect core developmental features of 22q11DS, including disturbed cognitive maturation during childhood and predisposition to internalizing psychopathology and psychosis during adolescence.