Involvement of the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex and superior temporal sulcus in impaired social perception in schizophrenia

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Abstract

Background:

Schizophrenia is a mental disorder characterized by impairments in diverse thinking and emotional responses, which are related to social perception dysfunction. This fMRI study was designed to investigate a neurobiological basis of social perception deficits of patients with schizophrenia in various social situations of daily life and their relationship with clinical symptoms and social dysfunction.

Methods:

Seventeen patients and 19 controls underwent functional magnetic resonance imaging, during which participants performed a virtual social perception task, containing an avatar's speech with positive, negative or neutral emotion in a virtual reality space. Participants were asked to determine whether or not the avatar's speech was appropriate to each situation.

Results:

The significant group × appropriateness interaction was seen in the left dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC), resulting from lower activity in patients in the inappropriate condition, and left DLPFC activity was negatively correlated with the severity of negative symptoms and positively correlated with the level of social functioning. The significant appropriateness × emotion interaction observed in the left superior temporal sulcus (STS) was present in controls, but absent in patients, resulting from the existence and absence of a difference between the inappropriate positive and negative conditions, respectively.

Conclusions:

These findings indicate that dysfunction of the DLPFC-STS network may underlie patients' abnormal social perception in various social situations of daily life. Abnormal functioning of this network may contribute to increases of negative symptoms and decreases of social functioning.

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