Introduction: There is mounting evidence that visual perception abnormalities in schizophrenia are partly explained by a dysfunction of the lateral occipital complex (LO). We previously demonstrated that schizophrenia patients had broader topography and reduced magnitude of activity of LO. However, the functional connectivity of LO with other brain regions during visual perception has not been directly investigated in schizophrenia. Materials and methods: Eighteen patients with schizophrenia and eighteen matched controls performed a backward masking task during functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). Stimulus onset asynchronies were manipulated to change the level of target visibility. To examine connectivity with LO function we conducted psychophysiological interactions (PPI) analyses using: 1) a region of interest (ROI) approach and 2) a whole brain analysis. ROIs were defined based on a contrast of trials on which a target was presented versus null trials in which no stimuli were presented. Results: Eleven ROIs were identified. Both groups showed similar strength of coupling between LO and the 11 ROIs when visibility was not taken into account. Healthy controls showed clear changes in coupling between LO and prefrontal and parietal regions as a function of target visibility (higher coupling with more visible targets). In comparison, patients showed reduced dynamic coupling with LO in the right superior frontal gyrus (significant after correcting for multiple comparisons) and a trend for reduced coupling in the left precuneus and left inferior frontal regions. Whole brain analysis identified additional regions that showed dynamic coupling with LO in healthy controls, but not in patients. Discussion: The increased coupling between LO and higher-level parietal and prefrontal regions during visual awareness in healthy controls likely reflects visual reentrant processing. The lack of modulation of coupling between LO and key prefrontal and parietal regions found in schizophrenia may partly reflect abnormalities in LO tuning. The altered LO coupling may contribute to visual perception abnormalities in schizophrenia.
- Backward visual masking
- Functional connectivity/ Dynamic coupling
- Lateral occipital complex