Methods: For the present study, we used resting-state neuroimaging data to evaluate connectivity between the main DMN hubs (i.e., the medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC) and the posterior cingulate cortex-anterior precuneus (PPC)) in individuals with schizophrenia (n=28) and controls (n=32). We also examined whether DMN connectivity was associated with social functioning via social attainment (measured by the Specific Levels of Functioning Scale) and social competence (measured by the Social Skills Performance Assessment), and if social cognition (measured by an emotional perspective taking task) mediated the association between DMN connectivity and the measures of social functioning.
Results: We observed that DMN connectivity did not differ between individuals with schizophrenia and controls (p>.10). However, connectivity between the mPFC and PCC hubs was significantly associated with social competence (p < .01) and social attainment (p < .01) in individuals with schizophrenia but not in controls as reflected by significant group-by-connectivity interactions for each above mentioned model. Follow-up within group analysis indicated that DMN connectivity was positively correlated with social competence (r = 0.45, P < .05) and social attainment (r = 0.44, P < .05) in individuals with schizophrenia. Social cognition did not mediate the association between social functioning and DMN connectivity in individuals with schizophrenia.
Conclusions and Implications: We observed that greater connectivity between regions in the DMN was associated with better social attainment and social competence in individuals with schizophrenia. Additionally, we found no evidence to support social cognition as a mediator for the association between DMN connectivity and social functioning in individuals with schizophrenia. Our findings support the general hypothesis that DMN connectivity could potentially be a novel treatment target and a neuroimaging marker for monitoring treatments aimed to enhance social attainment and social competence in schizophrenia. Moreover, future research could further develop this work by examining whether interventions targeting social attainment and social competence in other populations are strengthening the DMN connectivity of individuals with schizophrenia.