Abnormal Neural Connectivity in Schizophrenia and fMRI-Brain-Computer Interface as a Potential Therapeutic Approach
Considering that single locations of structural and functional abnormalities are insufficient to explain the diverse psychopathology of schizophrenia, new models have postulated that the impairments associated with the disease arise from a failure to integrate the activity of local and distributed neural circuits: the “abnormal neural connectivity hypothesis.” In the last years, new evidence coming from neuroimaging have supported and expanded this theory. However, despite the increasing evidence that schizophrenia is a disorder of neural connectivity, so far there are no treatments that have shown to produce a significant change in brain connectivity, or that have been specifically designed to alleviate this problem. Brain-Computer Interfaces based on real-time functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI-BCI) are novel techniques that have allowed subjects to achieve self-regulation of circumscribed brain regions. In recent studies, experiments with this technology have resulted in new findings suggesting that this methodology could be used to train subjects to enhance brain connectivity, and therefore could potentially be used as a therapeutic tool in mental disorders including schizophrenia. The present article summarizes the findings coming from hemodynamics-based neuroimaging that support the abnormal connectivity hypothesis in schizophrenia, and discusses a new approach that could address this problem.