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.

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Available from: Joseph B Hopfinger, Jul 15, 2015
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    • "However, the relationship between brain activation and functional impairment (e.g., interpersonal or occupational difficulties ) remains under-investigated. A significant exception is work by Pinkham et al. (2008), which demonstrated a positive association between frontal (e.g., mPFC, VLPFC) brain activation during a social cognition task and clinician-rated social functioning in people with schizophrenia. This kind of work is essential as it identifies potential mechanisms through which schizophrenia symptoms may contribute to functional impairment. "
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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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