A recent conceptual development in schizophrenia is to view its manifestations as interactive networks rather than individual symptoms. Negative symptoms, which are associated with poor functional outcome and reduced rates of recovery, represent a critical need in schizophrenia therapeutics. MIN101 (roluperidone), a compound in development, demonstrated efficacy in the treatment of negative symptoms in schizophrenia. However, it is unclear how the drug achieved its effect from a network perspective. The current study evaluated the efficacy of roluperidone from a network perspective. In this randomized clinical trial, participants with schizophrenia and moderate to severe negative symptoms were randomly assigned to roluperidone 32 mg (n = 78), 64 mg (n = 83), or placebo (N = 83). Macroscopic network properties were evaluated to determine whether roluperidone altered the overall density of the interconnections among symptoms. Microscopic properties were evaluated to examine which individual symptoms were most influential (ie, interconnected) on other symptoms in the network and are responsible for successful treatment effects. Participants receiving roluperidone did not differ from those randomized to placebo on macroscopic properties. However, microscopic properties (degree and closeness centrality) indicated that avolition was highly central in patients receiving placebo and that roluperidone reduced this level of centrality. These findings suggest that decoupling the influence of motivational processes from other negative symptom domains is essential for producing global improvements. The search for pathophysiological mechanisms and targeted treatment development should be focused on avolition, with the expectation of improvement in the entire constellation of negative symptoms if avolition is effectively treated.
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