Patients with schizophrenia and individuals with social anhedonia have been shown to exhibit impaired social reward processing that ultimately leads to impaired social interaction and social dysfunctions. Therefore, studying social reward anticipation in clinical and subclinical groups provides a useful framework to investigate processes promoting social interactions. However, most of the previous studies on social reward anticipation in schizophrenia spectrum disorders were limited to behavioural design. It remains unclear whether the putative neural processing for social reward anticipation has been altered in both of patients with established schizophrenia and at-risk individuals such as social anhedonia.
Dr. Raymond Chan and his team from the Neuropsychology and Applied Cognitive Neuroscience (NACN) Laboratory have conducted study to specifically examine the underlying neural mechanisms of social reward anticipation in these populations. They recruited 23 schizophrenia patients and 17 healthy controls, 37 social anhedonia individuals and 50 respective controls to complete the Social Incentive Delay imaging task while they were undertaking MRI brain scans. Their findings showed that schizophrenia patients exhibited hypo-activation of the left medial frontal gyrus and the negative FCs with the left parietal regions. However, individuals with social anhedonia exhibited the hyper-activation of the left middle frontal gyrus when anticipating social reward. Moreover, schizophrenia patients showed strengthened cerebellum-temporal FCs, whilst social anhedonia individuals showed strengthened left frontal regions FCs.
Taken together, these findings suggest that both patients with established schizophrenia and at-risk individuals with social anhedonia exhibit altered neural processing for social reward anticipation, and such neural activities showed a weakened association with real-life social network characteristics. Their work advances our understanding on the neural underpinnings of social motivation in schizophrenia spectrum disorders.
This study was supported by the Jiangsu Provincial Key Research and Development Programme, the CAS Key Laboratory of Mental Health, Institute of Psychology, the Scientific Foundation of Institute of Psychology, Chinese Academy of Sciences, the Phillip K.H. Wong Foundation, and the National Science Foundation China.
This study was published online on October 28, 2022 in European Archive of Psychiatry and Clinical Neuroscience:
- Zhang, Y. J., Hu, H. X., Wang, L. L., Wang, X., Wang, Y., Huang, J., Wang, Y., Lui, S. S. Y., Hui, L. Chan,R.C.K. (2022). Altered neural mechanism of social reward anticipation in individuals with schizophrenia and social anhedonia. European Archive of Psychiatry and Clinical Neuroscience.
Fig. 1 The neural processing during the social reward anticipation
in both the schizophrenia and social anhedonia groups. Image by Dr.Raymond Chan.
Institute of Psychology
Chinese Academy of Sciences
Beijing 100101, China.