Differential Patterns of Dysconnectivity in Mirror Neuron and Mentalizing Networks in Schizophrenia

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Abstract

Impairments of social cognition are well documented in patients with schizophrenia (SCZ), but the neural basis remains poorly understood. In light of evidence that suggests that the “mirror neuron system” (MNS) and the “mentalizing network” (MENT) are key substrates of intersubjectivity and joint action, it has been suggested that dysfunction of these neural networks may underlie social difficulties in SCZ patients. Additionally, MNS and MENT might be associated differently with positive vs negative symptoms, given prior social cognitive and symptom associations. We assessed resting state functional connectivity (RSFC) in meta-analytically defined MNS and MENT networks in this patient group. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans were obtained from 116 patients and 133 age-, gender- and movement-matched healthy controls (HC) at 5 different MRI sites. Network connectivity was analyzed for group differences and correlations with clinical symptoms. Results demonstrated decreased connectivity within the MNS and also the MENT in patients compared to controls. Notably, dysconnectivity of the MNS was related to symptom severity, while no such relationship was observed for the MENT. In sum, these findings demonstrate that differential patterns of dysconnectivity exist in SCZ patients, which may contribute differently to the interpersonal difficulties commonly observed in the disorder.

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