Compared to neurocognition, social cognition refers to higher-level psychological process during social interaction. In 2008, NIMH workshop was held and researchers have summarized five areas of social cognition in schizophrenia, including theory of mind, social perception, social knowledge, attribution bias and emotional processing. IImpairment in facial emotion perception is an important domain of social cognition deficits in schizophrenia. Although impaired facial emotion perception has been found in schizophrenia spectrum disorders, little is known about if there is any corresponding change in brain functional connectivity.
To address this unresolved issue, Drs. Yi Wang and Raymond Chan from the Neuropsychology and Applied Cognitive Neuroscience (NACN) Laboratory, CAS key Laboratory of Mental Health, Institute of Psychology, and their international collaborators have conducted a study to examine thechanges of individuals with high levels of negative schizotypal traits in both brain activity and functional connectivity during a facial emotion valence discrimination fMRI task.
Thirty-four individuals with high level of negative schizotypy and thirty individuals with low level negative schizotypy were recruited in this study. The Chapman scales for physical and social anhedonia were used to calculate the total score of negative schizotypy. All participants undertook a facial emotion discrimination functional imaging task that consisted of four emotional valences (angry, fear, happy, and neutral). First, the signal change at the bilateral amygdala was extracted and compared for each emotional contrast. Second, the beta-series functional connectivity of the bilateral amygdala with the medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC) was calculated and compared between groups. Reduced brain activations at the amygdala under fearful and neutral conditions was observed in high negative schizotypy group; in addition, reduced functional connectivity between the amygdala and the mPFC/dorsal anterior cingulate cortex under the happy and fearful conditions in the high NS group was also found.
Their findings demonstrated that the individuals with high NS have already exhibited altered brain activity and functional connectivity at the amygdala during facial emotion processing and provide new evidence for understanding social cognition deficits in at-risk individuals.
This study was supported by the Beijing Municipal Science & Technology Commission Grant; National Key Research and Development Programme; the Beijing Training Project for Leading Talents in S&T; the CAS Key Laboratory of Mental Health, Institute of Psychology, and the CAS/SAFEA International Partnership Programme for Creative Research Teams; National Science Fund China; China Scholarship Council.
Yi Wang*, Zhi Li, Wen-hua Liu, Xin-hua Wei, Xin-qing Jiang, Simon S Y Lui, Suzanne Ho-wai So, Eric F C Cheung, Martin Debbane, Raymond C K Chan (2018). Negative Schizotypy and Altered Functional Connectivity During Facial Emotion Processing, Schizophrenia Bulletin, https://doi.org/10.1093/schbul/sby036