Neural correlates of the core facets of empathy in schizophrenia. Schizophr Res

Institute for Clinical, Biological and Differential Psychology, University of Vienna, Vienna, Austria.
Schizophrenia Research (Impact Factor: 3.92). 04/2012; 136(1-3):70-81. DOI: 10.1016/j.schres.2011.12.018
Source: PubMed


Empathy is a multidimensional construct composed of several components such as emotion recognition, emotional perspective taking and affective responsiveness. Even though patients with schizophrenia demonstrate deficits in all core components of this basic social ability, the neural underpinnings of these dysfunctions are less clear. Using fMRI, we analyzed data from 15 patients meeting the DSM-IV criteria for schizophrenia and 15 matched healthy volunteers performing three separate paradigms tapping the core components of empathy, i.e. emotion recognition, perspective taking and affective responsiveness. Behavioral data analysis indicated a significant empathic deficit in patients, reflected in worse performance in all three domains. Analysis of functional data revealed hypoactivation in a fronto-temporo-parietal network including the amygdala in patients. Moreover, amygdala activation correlated negatively with severity of negative symptoms. The results suggest that schizophrenia patients not only suffer from a broad range of emotional deficits but also show cortical and subcortical abnormalities, extending previous findings on fronto-temporal cortical dysfunctions. Since empathy is related to psychosocial functioning and hence of high clinical relevance in schizophrenia, a more detailed understanding of the exact nature of these impairments is mandatory.

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Available from: Simon B Eickhoff, Oct 06, 2015
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    • "Further studies capitalizing the integration across the phenomenological and neurophysiological levels are hence necessary, in order to provide advances in the understanding of vulnerability markers in schizophrenia and enhance early identification and intervention approaches. The aim of this study is to explore whether a weak or high emotional motor resonance occurring in SzSp patients—considered a mirror mechanismproxy (Carr et al., 2003; Seitz et al., 2008; Derntl et al., 2012)—is related to patients' clinical features and to their anomalous subjective experiences as indexed by the Bonn Scale for the Assessment of Basic Symptoms (BSABS). "
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    ABSTRACT: Anomalous experiences such as Basic Symptoms (BS) are considered the first subjective manifestation of the neurobiological substrate of schizophrenia. The purpose of this study was to explore whether a low or high emotional motor resonance occurring in Schizophrenia Spectrum (SzSp) patients was related to patients׳ clinical features and to their anomalous subjective experiences as indexed by the Bonn Scale for the Assessment of Basic Symptoms (BSABS). To this aim, we employed a validated paradigm sensitive in evoking a congruent facial mimicry (measured by means of facial electromyographic activity, EMG) through multimodal positive and negative emotional stimuli presentation. Results showed that SzSp patients more resonating with negative emotional stimuli (i.e. Externalizers) had significantly higher scores in BSABS Cluster 3 (Vulnerability) and more psychotic episodes than Internalizers patients. On the other hand, SzSp patients more resonating with positive emotional stimuli (i.e. Externalizers) scored higher in BSABS Cluster 5 (Interpersonal irritation) than Internalizers. Drawing upon a phenomenological-based perspective, we attempted to shed new light on the abnormal experiences characterizing schizophrenia, explaining them in terms of a disruption of the normal self-perception conveyed by the basic, low-level emotional motor mechanisms. Copyright © 2015 Elsevier Ireland Ltd. All rights reserved.
    Psychiatry Research 05/2015; 30. DOI:10.1016/j.psychres.2015.05.038 · 2.47 Impact Factor
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    • "Only two studies have investigated the neural correlates of empathy in SZ, suggesting a reduced neural response across cortical and subcortical areas (Derntl et al. 2012; Harvey et al. 2013). Derntl et al. (2012) used sentences describing real-life situations; participants were asked to imagine how they would feel if they were experiencing this situation. The study by Harvey et al. (2013) focused on empathic accuracy, and had participants rate the affective state of another person (target) shown in a series of videos and compared these with the self-rated affect of the target. "
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    ABSTRACT: Social neuroscience is a flourishing, interdisciplinary field that investigates the underlying biological processes of social cognition and behaviour. The recent application of social neuroscience to psychiatric research advances our understanding of various psychiatric illnesses that are characterized by impairments in social cognition and social functioning. In addition, the upcoming line of social neuroscience research provides new techniques to design and evaluate treatment interventions that are aimed at improving patients' social lives. This review provides a contemporary overview of social neuroscience in psychiatry. We draw together the major findings about the neural mechanisms of social cognitive processes directed at understanding others and social interactions in psychiatric illnesses and discuss their implications for future research and clinical practice.
    Psychological Medicine 10/2014; 45(06):1-21. DOI:10.1017/S0033291714002487 · 5.94 Impact Factor
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    • "Research on empathic processes in schizophrenia has thus far predominantly focused on mentalizing. Individuals with schizophrenia have consistently been found to show diminished mentalizing on self-report, behavioral, and fMRI measures (e.g., Chung et al., 2013; Derntl et al., 2012; Smith et al., 2014; Smith et al., 2012). Relatively little research has examined whether schizophrenia is also associated with impairments in mirroring. "
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    ABSTRACT: Although schizophrenia is associated with impairments in social cognition, the scope and neural correlates of these disturbances are largely unknown. In this study, we investigated whether schizophrenia patients show impaired functioning of the mirror neuron system (MNS), as indexed by electroencephalographic (EEG) mu (8-13 Hz) suppression, a hypothesized biomarker of MNS activity that is sensitive to the degree of social interaction depicted in visual stimuli. A total of 32 outpatients and 26 healthy controls completed an EEG paradigm that included six action observation or execution conditions that differed in their degrees of social interaction. Participants also completed a validated empathy questionnaire. Across both groups, we found a significant linear increase in mu suppression across the conditions involving greater levels of social engagement and interaction, but no significant group or interaction effects. Patients self-reported diminished empathic concern and perspective taking, which showed some moderate relations to mu suppression levels. Thus, the schizophrenia group showed generally intact modulation of MNS functioning at the electrophysiological level, despite self-reporting empathic disturbances. The disturbances commonly seen on self-report, performance, and neuroimaging measures of mentalizing in schizophrenia may largely reflect difficulties with higher-level inferential processes about others' emotions, rather than a basic incapacity to share in these experiences.
    Cognitive Affective & Behavioral Neuroscience 01/2014; 14(3). DOI:10.3758/s13415-013-0245-8 · 3.29 Impact Factor
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