Background: Social amotivation is a core element of the negative symptoms of schizophrenia. However, it is still largely unknown which neural substrates underpin social amotivation in people with schizophrenia, though deficiencies in the mesocorticolimbic dopamine system have been proposed.
Methods: We examined the association between social amotivation and substantia nigra/ventral tegmental area-seeded intrinsic connectivity in 84 people with schizophrenia using resting state functional magnetic resonance imaging.
Results: Spontaneous fluctuations of midbrain dopaminergic regions were positively associated with striatal and prefrontal fluctuations in people with schizophrenia. Most importantly, social amotivation was negatively associated with functional connectivity between the midbrain's substantia nigra/ventral tegmental area and medial-and lateral prefrontal cortex, the temporoparietal junction, and dorsal and ventral striatum. These associations were observed independently of depressive and positive symptoms.
Conclusions: Our findings suggest that social amotivation in people with schizophrenia is associated with altered intrinsic connectivity of mesocorticolimbic pathways linked to cognitive control and reward processing. Dysconnectivity of dopaminergic neuronal ensembles that are fundamental to approach behavior and motivation may help explain the lack of initiative social behavior in people with social amotivation. (C) 2019 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.