Altered functional connectivity of the thalamus induced by modified electroconvulsive therapy for schizophrenia

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Background: Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) has been shown to be effective in schizophrenia (SZ), particularly in drug-refractory cases or when rapid symptom relief is needed. However, its precise mechanisms of action remain largely unclear. To clarify the mechanisms underlying modified electroconvulsive therapy (mECT) for SZ, we conducted a longitudinal cohort study evaluating functional connectivity of the thalamus before and after mECT treatment using sub-regions of thalamus as regions of interest (ROIs). Methods: Twenty-one SZ individuals taking only antipsychotics (DSZ group) for 4 weeks and 21 SZ patients receiving a regular course of mECT combining with antipsychotics (MSZ group) were observed in parallel. All patients underwent magnetic resonance imaging scans at baseline (t1) and follow-up (t2, ~4 weeks) time points. Data were compared to a matched healthy control group (HC group) consisting of 23 persons who were only scanned at baseline. Group differences in changes of thalamic functional connectivity between two SZ groups over time, as well as in functional connectivity among two SZ groups and HC group were assessed. Results: Significant interaction of group by time was found in functional connectivity of the right thalamus to right putamen during the course of about 4-week treatment. Post-hoc analysis showed a significantly enhanced functional connectivity of the right thalamus to right putamen in the MSZ group contrasting to the DSZ group. In addition, a decreased and an increased functional connectivity of the thalamus to sensory cortex were observed within the MSZ and DSZ group after 4-week treatment trial, respectively. Conclusion: Our findings suggest that changes in functional connectivity of the thalamus may be associated with the brain mechanisms of mECT for schizophrenia.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalSchizophrenia Research
StateAccepted/In press - Jan 1 2020

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Biological Psychiatry


  • Functional connectivity
  • Modified electroconvulsive therapy
  • Schizophrenia
  • Thalamus

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