An Investigation of the Relationship Between Activation of a Social Cognitive Neural Network and Social Functioning

Brain Behavior Laboratory, Department of Psychiatry, School of Medicine, University of Pennsylvania, 10th Floor, Gates Building, Philadelphia, PA 19104, USA.
Schizophrenia Bulletin (Impact Factor: 8.45). 08/2008; 34(4):688-97. DOI: 10.1093/schbul/sbn031
Source: PubMed


Previous work examining the neurobiological substrates of social cognition in healthy individuals has reported modulation of a social cognitive network such that increased activation of the amygdala, fusiform gyrus, and superior temporal sulcus are evident when individuals judge a face to be untrustworthy as compared with trustworthy. We examined whether this pattern would be present in individuals with schizophrenia who are known to show reduced activation within these same neural regions when processing faces. Additionally, we sought to determine how modulation of this social cognitive network may relate to social functioning. Neural activation was measured using functional magnetic resonance imaging with blood oxygenation level dependent contrast in 3 groups of individuals--nonparanoid individuals with schizophrenia, paranoid individuals with schizophrenia, and healthy controls--while they rated faces as either trustworthy or untrustworthy. Analyses of mean percent signal change extracted from a priori regions of interest demonstrated that both controls and nonparanoid individuals with schizophrenia showed greater activation of this social cognitive network when they rated a face as untrustworthy relative to trustworthy. In contrast, paranoid individuals did not show a significant difference in levels of activation based on how they rated faces. Further, greater activation of this social cognitive network to untrustworthy faces was significantly and positively correlated with social functioning. These findings indicate that impaired modulation of neural activity while processing social stimuli may underlie deficits in social cognition and social dysfunction in schizophrenia.


Available from: Joseph B Hopfinger, Jul 15, 2015
    • "Consequently, schizophrenic patients have a poorer social outcome, i.e. they are less likely to have friends or hold a job (Couture et al. 2006; Pinkham et al. 2008). Because schizophrenia patients often report these disabilities to be most disturbing, there is an urgent need for treatment strategies to enhance their functional abilities. "
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    ABSTRACT: Training of Affect Recognition (TAR) is a useful approach to restoring cognitive function in schizophrenic patients. Along with improving visual exploration of faces and altering central information processing in relevant brain areas, TAR attenuates impairments in facial affect recognition. In the present study, we investigate the effects of TAR on early electrophysiological correlates of facial affect recognition in schizophrenia. The study population comprised 12 schizophrenic patients and 14 healthy controls. In each individual, we carried out EEG, concomitant measurements of scanning eye movements and fixation-based low resolution electromagnetic tomography (sLORETA) analyses of brain electric activity. All analyses were performed at baseline and after participation in TAR. In patients, brain activation patterns significantly changed after completing the TAR. Functional improvements were particularly pronounced in the superior parietal and inferior parietal lobes, where trained patients showed a larger increase in activation than untrained healthy controls. The TAR activates compensatory brain processes involved in the perception, attention and evaluation of emotional stimuli. This may underlie the established behavioral effects of the TAR in schizophrenic patients, which include improvements in facial affect recognition and alterations of visual exploration strategies.
    The World Journal of Biological Psychiatry 07/2015; 16(6):1-11. DOI:10.3109/15622975.2015.1051110 · 4.18 Impact Factor
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    • "Several lines of investigation indicate that schizophrenia is a disorder of the 'social brain' (Burns, 2006). These include abnormal cortical activation patterns during social tasks (Abdi and Sharma, 2004; Pinkham et al., 2008), negative symptoms of asociality and avolition (Sergi et al., 2007), and deficits in social cognition (SC) (Mehta et al., 2013c), and social skills (Pinkham and Penn, 2006). These reflect a possible central deficit that expresses in an interpersonal context contributing to substantial deficits in social functioning (Burns, 2006). "
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    ABSTRACT: Dysfunctional mirror neuron activity (MNA) has been posited to underlie diverse symptoms of schizophrenia (e.g., ego-boundary disturbances, negative symptoms, social cognition impairments and catatonic symptoms). In this paper, we systematically review studies that have empirically compared putative MNA in schizophrenia patients and healthy subjects using different neurophysiological probes. Majority of the studies (n = 9) reported reduced MNA in patients. Two each reported either increased MNA or mixed (both increased and decreased) results, while only one study reported normal findings. Reduced MNA was associated with greater negative symptoms and theory of mind deficits. The neurophysiological technique, task paradigms used, specific brain regions studied and laterality did not influence these findings. Further, we propose an overarching model to understand the heterogeneous symptom dimensions of schizophrenia, in which an inherent mirror system deficit underlying persistent negative symptoms, social cognition impairments and self-monitoring deficits triggers a pathological metaplastic reorganization of this system resulting in aberrant excessive MNA and the phasic catatonic symptoms, affective instability and hallucinations. Despite being preliminary in nature, evidence of abnormal MNA in schizophrenia reported necessitates more detailed investigation. Future research directions of using this model within the Research Domain Criteria framework of the National Institute of Mental Health are discussed.
    Schizophrenia Research 11/2014; 160(1-3). DOI:10.1016/j.schres.2014.10.040 · 3.92 Impact Factor
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    • "Impairments in facial affect recognition are one of the most often replicated neuropsychological findings in schizophrenia (Trémeau, 2006; Morris et al., 2009; Kohler et al., 2010) and have been identified as a significant factor contributing to poor social and community functioning (Lee et al., 2004; Couture et al., 2006; Pinkham et al., 2008). "
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    ABSTRACT: Background: Schizophrenia patients have impairments in facial affect recognition and display scanpath abnormalities during the visual exploration of faces. These abnormalities are characterized by fewer fixations on salient feature areas and longer fixation durations. The present study investigated whether social-cognitive remediation not only improves performance in facial affect recognition but also normalizes patients' gaze behavior while looking at faces. Methods: Within a 2 × 2-design (group × time), 16 schizophrenia patients and 16 healthy controls performed a facial affect recognition task with concomitant infrared oculography at baseline (T0) and after six weeks (T1). Between the measurements, patients completed the Training of Affect Recognition (TAR) program. The influence of the training on facial affect recognition (percent of correct answers) and gaze behavior (number and mean duration of fixations into salient or non-salient facial areas) was assessed. Results: In line with former studies, at baseline patients showed poorer facial affect recognition than controls and aberrant scanpaths, and after TAR facial affect recognition was improved. Concomitant with improvements in performance, the number of fixations in feature areas ('mouth') increased while fixations in non-feature areas ('white space') decreased. However, the change in fixation behavior did not correlate with the improvement in performance. Conclusions: After TAR, patients pay more attention to facial areas that contain information about a displayed emotion. Although this may contribute to the improved performance, the lack of a statistical correlation implies that this factor is not sufficient to explain the underlying mechanism of the treatment effect.
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