Social cognition and self-other distinctions in neuropsychiatry: Insights from schizophrenia and Tourette syndrome

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Abstract

Impairments in social cognition may reflect dysfunction of disorder specific or disorder general mechanisms. Although cross-disorder comparison may prove insightful, few studies have compared social cognition in different neuropsychiatric disorders. Parallel investigation of schizophrenia and Tourette syndrome (TS) is encouraged by similarities including the presence of problematic social behavior, echophenomena, emotional dysregulation and dopamine dysfunction. Focusing on tests of social cognition administered in both disorders, this review aims to summarize behavioral, neurophysiological and neuroimaging findings, before exploring how these may contribute to clinical symptoms. Studies investigating social cognition (imitation, emotion recognition, and understanding of beliefs or intentions) in patients with schizophrenia or TS were identified through Web of Science and PubMed searches. Although findings indicate that social cognitive deficits are more apparent in schizophrenia, adults with TS can exhibit similar task performance to patients with paranoia. In both disorders, behavioral and neuroimaging findings raise the possibility of increased internal simulation of others' actions and emotions, in combination with a relative under-application of mentalizing. More specifically, dysfunction in neurobiological substrates such as temporo-parietal junction and inferior frontal gyrus may underlie problems with self-other distinctions in both schizophrenia and TS. Difficulties in distinguishing between actions and mental states linked to the self and other may contribute to a range of psychiatric symptoms, including emotional dysregulation, paranoia, social anhedonia and socially disruptive urges. Comparing different patient populations could therefore reveal common neuro-cognitive risk factors for the development of problematic social behaviors, in addition to markers of resilience, coping strategies and potential neuro-compensation mechanisms.

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