Prior studies using exploratory factor analysis provide evidence that negative symptoms are best conceptualized as 2 dimensions reflecting diminished motivation and expression. However, the 2-dimensional model has yet to be evaluated using more complex mathematical techniques capable of testing structure. In the current study, network analysis was applied to evaluate the latent structure of negative symptoms using a community-detection algorithm. Two studies were conducted that included outpatients with schizophrenia (SZ; Study 1: n = 201; Study 2: n = 912) who were rated on the Brief Negative Symptom Scale (BNSS). In both studies, network analysis indicated that the 13 BNSS items divided into 6 negative symptom domains consisting of anhedonia, avolition, asociality, blunted affect, alogia, and lack of normal distress. Separation of these domains was statistically significant with reference to a null model of randomized networks. There has been a recent trend toward conceptualizing the latent structure of negative symptoms in relation to 2 distinct dimensions reflecting diminished expression and motivation. However, the current results obtained using network analysis suggest that the 2-dimensional conceptualization is not complex enough to capture the nature of the negative symptom construct. Similar to recent confirmatory factor analysis studies, network analysis revealed that the latent structure of negative symptom is best conceptualized in relation to the 5 domains identified in the 2005 National Institute of Mental Health consensus development conference (anhedonia, avolition, asociality, blunted affect, and alogia) and potentially a sixth domain consisting of lack of normal distress. Findings have implications for identifying pathophysiological mechanisms and targeted treatments.
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