Neural soft signs which are defined as minor impairments of motor coordination, sensory integration and disinhibition, are prevalent in people with schizophrenia spectrum disorders including individuals with schizotypal personality traits, patients with schizophrenia and their unaffected first-degree relatives. Association between neural soft signs and schizophrenia symptoms found in previous studies suggest the role of neural soft sign in the development of schizophrenia. Although empirical evidences have suggested the role of impaired cortical-thalamic-cerebellar-cortical circuit in neural soft signs especially the motor coordination function, the neural mechanism of dysfunction sensory integration in schizophrenia remains unclear yet. Hence the examination on the brain functional mechanism of sensory integration in people with schizophrenia spectrum disorders may help the understanding of the role of sensory integration in the pathophysiology of schizophrenia, and further facilitate the detection of biomarkers for the diagnosis and intervention on schizophrenia.
To gap this research gap, Raymond Chan and his international cooperators designed an experiment which recorded the brain activation of 52 first-episode patients with schizophrenia and 52 matched healthy controls, 25 unaffected siblings of patients with schizophrenia, 56 heathy monozygotic twins and 56 dizygotic twins while performing a verifies sensory integration task.
They found that the patients with schizophrenia demonstrated lower cerebellar activation as compared with their healthy controls, while performing the sensory integration task. Besides, the siblings of patients with schizophrenia also demonstrated lower cerebellar activation than healthy controls, but higher cerebellar activation than their probands during integration the sensory stimuli. Finally, the cerebellar activation while performing the sensory integration task was found with significant heritability 0.37.
These findings suggested that the hypoactivation found in cerebellar during sensory integration plays a vital role in the impaired sensory integration found in people with schizophrenia spectrum disorders. Besides, the cerebellar activation underlying sensory integration is heritable that suggested its role as a candidate endophenotype of schizophrenia.
This study was supported by a grant from the National Key Research and Development Programme, Beijing Municipal Science & Technology Commission Grant, and the CAS Key Laboratory of Mental Health, Institute of Psychology.
This paper is now published online in Journal of Abnormal Psychology
Li, Z., Huang, J., Hung, K. S. Y., Deng, Y., Wang, Y., Wang, Y., Lui, S. S. Y., Mak, Henry, K F., Sham, P. C., Cheung, E. F. C., Ongür, D., Dazzan, P., Chan, R. C. K.* (2020). Cerebellar hypoactivation is associated with impaired sensory integration in schizophrenia. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, doi.org/10.1037/abn0000636
Ms. LIU Chen
Institute of Psychology