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    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Background: Impairments in social cognition have been described in schizophrenia and relate to core symptoms of the disorder. Social cognition is subserved by a network of brain regions, many of which have been implicated in schizophrenia. We hypothesized that deficits in connectivity between components of this social brain network may underlie the social cognition impairments seen in the disorder. Methods: We investigated brain activation and connectivity in a group of individuals with schizophrenia making social judgments of approachability from faces (n = 20), compared with a group of matched healthy volunteers (n = 24), using functional magnetic resonance imaging. Effective connectivity from the amygdala was estimated using the psychophysiological interaction approach. Results: While making approachability judgments, healthy participants recruited a network of social brain regions including amygdala, fusiform gyrus, cerebellum, and inferior frontal gyrus bilaterally and left medial prefrontal cortex. During the approachability task, healthy participants showed increased connectivity from the amygdala to the fusiform gyri, cerebellum, and left superior frontal cortex. In comparison to controls, individuals with schizophrenia overactivated the right middle frontal gyrus, superior frontal gyrus, and precuneus and had reduced connectivity between the amygdala and the insula cortex. Discussion: We report increased activation of frontal and medial parietal regions during social judgment in patients with schizophrenia, accompanied by decreased connectivity between the amygdala and insula. We suggest that the increased activation of frontal control systems and association cortex may reflect a compensatory mechanism for impaired connectivity of the amygdala with other parts of the social brain networks in schizophrenia.
    Full-text · Article · Jan 2014 · Schizophrenia Bulletin
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    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Borderline personality disorder (BPD) is a common and serious mental illness, associated with a high risk of suicide and self harm. Those with a diagnosis of BPD often display difficulties with social interaction and struggle to form and maintain interpersonal relationships. Here we investigated the ability of participants with BPD to make social inferences from faces. 20 participants with BPD and 21 healthy controls were shown a series of faces and asked to judge these according to one of six characteristics (age, distinctiveness, attractiveness, intelligence, approachability, trustworthiness). The number and direction of errors made (compared to population norms) were recorded for analysis. Participants with a diagnosis of BPD displayed significant impairments in making judgements from faces. In particular, the BPD Group judged faces as less approachable and less trustworthy than controls. Furthermore, within the BPD Group there was a correlation between scores on the Childhood Trauma Questionnaire (CTQ) and bias towards judging faces as unapproachable. Individuals with a diagnosis of BPD have difficulty making appropriate social judgements about others from their faces. Judging more faces as unapproachable and untrustworthy indicates that this group may have a heightened sensitivity to perceiving potential threat, and this should be considered in clinical management and treatment.
    Full-text · Article · Nov 2013 · PLoS ONE
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    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Schizophrenia is associated with cortical thickness reductions in the brain, but it is unclear whether these are present before illness onset, and to what extent they are driven by genetic factors. In the Edinburgh High Risk Study, structural MRI scans of 150 young individuals at high familial risk for schizophrenia, 34 patients with first-episode schizophrenia and 36 matched controls were acquired, and clinical information was collected for the following 10years for the high-risk and control group. During this time, 17 high-risk individuals developed schizophrenia, on average 2.5years after the scan, and 57 experienced isolated or sub-clinical psychotic symptoms. We applied surface-based analysis of the cerebral cortex to this cohort, and extracted cortical thickness in automatically parcellated regions. Analysis of variance revealed widespread thinning of the cerebral cortex in first-episode patients, most pronounced in superior frontal, medial parietal, and lateral occipital regions (corrected p<10(-4)). In contrast, cortical thickness reductions were only found in high-risk individuals in the left middle temporal gyrus (corrected p<0.05). There were no significant differences between those at high risk who later developed schizophrenia and those who remained well. These findings confirm cortical thickness reductions in schizophrenia patients. Increased familial risk for schizophrenia is associated with thinning in the left middle temporal lobe, irrespective of subsequent disease onset. The absence of widespread cortical thinning before disease onset implies that the cortical thinning is unlikely to simply reflect genetic liability to schizophrenia but is predominantly driven by disease-associated factors.
    Full-text · Article · Oct 2013 · Schizophrenia Research
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