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Contributions of Parasympathetic Arousal–Related Activity to Cognitive Performance in Patients With First-Episode Psychosis and Control Subjects

  • Anita D. Barber
    Correspondence
    Address correspondence to Anita Barber, Ph.D.
    Affiliations
    Department of Psychiatry, Zucker Hillside Hospital, Glen Oaks, New York

    Center for Psychiatric Neuroscience, Feinstein Institute for Medical Research, Manhasset, New York

    Department of Psychiatry, Zucker School of Medicine at Hofstra/Northwell, Hofstra University, Hempstead, New York
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  • Juan A. Gallego
    Affiliations
    Department of Psychiatry, Zucker Hillside Hospital, Glen Oaks, New York

    Center for Psychiatric Neuroscience, Feinstein Institute for Medical Research, Manhasset, New York

    Department of Psychiatry, Zucker School of Medicine at Hofstra/Northwell, Hofstra University, Hempstead, New York
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  • Pamela DeRosse
    Affiliations
    Department of Psychiatry, Zucker Hillside Hospital, Glen Oaks, New York

    Center for Psychiatric Neuroscience, Feinstein Institute for Medical Research, Manhasset, New York

    Department of Psychiatry, Zucker School of Medicine at Hofstra/Northwell, Hofstra University, Hempstead, New York
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  • Michael L. Birnbaum
    Affiliations
    Department of Psychiatry, Zucker Hillside Hospital, Glen Oaks, New York

    Center for Psychiatric Neuroscience, Feinstein Institute for Medical Research, Manhasset, New York

    Department of Psychiatry, Zucker School of Medicine at Hofstra/Northwell, Hofstra University, Hempstead, New York
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  • Todd Lencz
    Affiliations
    Department of Psychiatry, Zucker Hillside Hospital, Glen Oaks, New York

    Center for Psychiatric Neuroscience, Feinstein Institute for Medical Research, Manhasset, New York

    Department of Psychiatry, Zucker School of Medicine at Hofstra/Northwell, Hofstra University, Hempstead, New York
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  • Sana A. Ali
    Affiliations
    Department of Psychiatry, Zucker Hillside Hospital, Glen Oaks, New York

    Center for Psychiatric Neuroscience, Feinstein Institute for Medical Research, Manhasset, New York
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  • Ashley Moyett
    Affiliations
    Department of Psychiatry, Zucker Hillside Hospital, Glen Oaks, New York

    Center for Psychiatric Neuroscience, Feinstein Institute for Medical Research, Manhasset, New York
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  • Anil K. Malhotra
    Affiliations
    Department of Psychiatry, Zucker Hillside Hospital, Glen Oaks, New York

    Center for Psychiatric Neuroscience, Feinstein Institute for Medical Research, Manhasset, New York

    Department of Psychiatry, Zucker School of Medicine at Hofstra/Northwell, Hofstra University, Hempstead, New York
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Published:October 29, 2021DOI:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.bpsc.2021.10.013

      Abstract

      Background

      Cognitive impairment is integral to the pathophysiology of psychosis. Recent findings implicate autonomic arousal–related activity in both momentary fluctuations and individual differences in cognitive performance. Although altered autonomic arousal is common in patients with first-episode psychosis (FEP), its contribution to cognitive performance is unknown.

      Methods

      A total of 24 patients with FEP (46% male, age = 24.31 [SD 4.27] years) and 24 control subjects (42% male, age = 27.06 [3.44] years) performed the Multi-Source Interference Task in-scanner with simultaneous pulse oximetry. First-level models included the cardiac-blood oxygen level–dependent regressor, in addition to task (congruent, interference, and error) and nuisance (motion and CompCor physiology) regressors. The cardiac-blood oxygen level–dependent regressor reflected parasympathetic arousal–related activity and was created by convolving the interbeat interval at each heartbeat with the hemodynamic response function. Group models examined the effect of group or cognitive performance (reaction times × error rate) on arousal-related and task activity, while controlling for sex, age, and framewise displacement.

      Results

      Parasympathetic arousal–related activity was robust in both groups but localized to different regions for patients with FEP and healthy control subjects. Within both groups, arousal-related activity was significantly associated with cognitive performance across occipital and temporal cortical regions. Greater arousal-related activity in the bilateral prefrontal cortex (Brodmann area 9) was related to better performance in healthy control subjects but not patients with FEP.

      Conclusions

      Autonomic arousal circuits contribute to cognitive performance and the pathophysiology of FEP. Arousal-related functional activity is a novel indicator of cognitive ability and should be incorporated into neurobiological models of cognition in psychosis.

      Keywords

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