Mental time travel (MTT) refers to the ability to re-experience past events and pre-experience possible future events through mental simulation. It plays an important role in our daily lives to facilitate optimal social functioning. Recent findings suggest that individuals with high level of schizotypy exhibit poor MTT. However, the underlying psychological process and neural mechanism for this MTT problem are not fully known.
In order to address this issue, Drs. WANG Ya and Raymond Chan from the Neuropsychology and Applied Cognitive Neuroscience (NACN) Laboratory, CAS Key Laboratory of Mental Health, Institute of Psychology have conducted a study to examine the neural correlates of MTT in 38 participants with high level of schizotypy and 35 low level of schizotypy. All of them completed a task-based MTT paradigm while they were undertaking brain scan. The MTT imaging paradigm requested all the participants to recall past events, imagine possible future events related to cue words, or generate exemplars related to category words. Regarding the ability to recall past events, findings showed greater activation in precuneus, bilateral posterior cingulate cortex, thalamus, and middle frontal gyrus than EFT.
In particular, participants with high level of schizotypy, they exhibited reduced activation in the left anterior cingulate cortex during recalling the past events and in the medial frontal gyrus during envisioning possible future events compared to participants with low level of schizotypy. Participants with high level of schizotypy also exhibited functional connectivity between left anterior cingulate cortex and right thalamus, between medial frontal gyrus (seed) and left cerebellum while they were performing the MTT task. However, participants with low level of schizotypy did not exhibit these functional connectivities.
Taken together, these preliminary findings suggest that decreased brain activations may underlie MTT deficits in individuals with high level of schizotypy. These findings have implications for the formulation and development of intervention for people with MTT problems or impairments.
This study was supported by the National Science Foundation of China and Philip KH Wong Foundation.
This study was published online on Feb. 14, 2023 in Progress in Neuropsychopharmacology & Biological Psychiatry:
Ye, J. Y., Qin, X. J., Cui, J. F., Shi, H. S., Liu, J. L., Huang, J., Wang, Y., Yang, T. X., Lui, S. S. Y., Wang, Y.*, Chan, R. C. K. (in press). Neural correlates of mental time travel in individuals with high level of schizotypy. Progress in Neuropsychopharmacology & Biological Psychiatry, 124, 110734.
Institute of Psychology
Chinese Academy of Sciences
Beijing 100101, China.