Identifying a system of predominant negative symptoms: Network analysis of three randomized clinical trials.
Reasons for the recent mixed success of research into negative symptoms may be informed by conceptualizing negative symptoms as a system that is identifiable from network analysis. We aimed to identify: (I) negative symptom systems; (I) central negative symptoms within each system; and (III) differences between the systems, based on network analysis of negative symptoms for baseline, endpoint and change.Patients with chronic schizophrenia and predominant negative symptoms participated in three clinical trials that compared placebo and amisulpride to 60days (n=487). Networks analyses were computed from the Scale for the Assessment of Negative Symptoms (SANS) scores for baseline and endpoint for severity, and estimated change based on mixed models. Central symptoms to each network were identified. The networks were contrasted for connectivity with permutation tests.Network analysis showed that the baseline and endpoint symptom severity systems formed symptom groups of Affect, Poor responsiveness, Lack of interest, and Apathy-inattentiveness. The baseline and endpoint networks did not significantly differ in terms of connectivity, but both significantly (P<0.05) differed to the change network. In the change network the apathy-inattentiveness symptom group split into three other groups. The most central symptoms were Decreased Spontaneous Movements at baseline and endpoint, and Poverty of Speech for estimated change.Results provide preliminary evidence for: (I) a replicable negative symptom severity system; and (II) symptoms with high centrality (e.g., Decreased Spontaneous Movement), that may be future treatment targets following replication to ensure the curent results generalize to other samples.