Differences in brain function make it hard for people with schizophrenia to interpret other people's feelings

November 30, 2000

A new brain imaging study from the Institute of Psychiatry shows for the first time that brain abnormalities and social difficulties in schizophrenia are related. This exciting new study shows that differences in brain function in people with schizophrenia make it difficult for them to gauge what other people are feeling. The findings, published in the American Journal of Psychiatry in December, provide crucial information that may help people with schizophrenia to live normal lives.

Led by Dr Tonmoy Sharma, the study combined a new research focus, social cognition,(the ability to recognise and empathise with other people's feelings) with functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to explore why people with schizophrenia have difficulty in interpreting other people's behaviour.

Assessing social dysfunction is a method used to help diagnose schizophrenia. Problems in empathising with others, make it difficult for those with schizophrenia to relate to people, make friends and get jobs. In addition, many believe that this failure to empathise with others correctly may lead to some rare incidences of violence seen in schizophrenia.

The participants of the study were asked to identify the expressions of a series of pairs of eyes, while they did this, images were taken of their brains. The people with schizophrenia were less able to identify the emoitions expressed by the eyes than the people without the illness.

Using fMRI, researchers were able to show that in schizophrenia, social difficulties relate closely to differences in brain activity. Brain imaging revealed reduced activation in the left fronto-temporal network of the brain. Abnormalities in these areas are well documented in schizophrenia but this is the first study when fMRI has linked these brain abnormalities to the social problems seen in schizophrenia.

Dr Sharma feels that social cognition is an area that needs to be addressed. "The ability to recognise emotions is what makes us human, it is an essential attribute lost in schizophrenia. The next challenge is to see whether current treatments can reverse these deficits in social cognition."
Reference: T Russell, K Rubia, E Bullmore, W Soni, J Suckling, M Brammer, A Simmons, S Williams and T Sharma. Exploring the Social Brain in Schizophrenia: Left Prefrontal Underactivation During Mental State Attribution. American Journal of Psychiatry 2000; 157 (11)

Institute of Psychiatry

Related Schizophrenia Articles from Brightsurf:

Schizophrenia: When the thalamus misleads the ear
Scientists at the University of Geneva (UNIGE) and the Synapsy National Centre of Competence in Research (NCCR) have succeeded in linking the onset of auditory hallucinations - one of the most common symptoms of schizophrenia - with the abnormal development of certain substructures of a region deep in the brain called the thalamus.

Unlocking schizophrenia
New research, led by Prof. LIU Bing and Prof. JIANG Tianzi from the Institute of Automation of the Chinese Academy of Sciences and their collaborators have recently developed a novel imaging marker that may help in the personalized medicine of psychiatric disorders.

Researchers discover second type of schizophrenia
In a study of more than 300 patients from three continents, over one third had brains that looked similar to healthy people.

New clues into the genetic origins of schizophrenia
The first genetic analysis of schizophrenia in an ancestral African population, the South African Xhosa, appears in the Jan.

Dietary supplement may help with schizophrenia
A dietary supplement, sarcosine, may help with schizophrenia as part of a holistic approach complementing antipsychotic medication, according to a UCL researcher.

Schizophrenia: Adolescence is the game-changer
Schizophrenia may be related to the deletion syndrome. However, not everyone who has the syndrome necessarily develops psychotic symptoms.

Study suggests overdiagnosis of schizophrenia
In a small study of patients referred to the Johns Hopkins Early Psychosis Intervention Clinic (EPIC), Johns Hopkins Medicine researchers report that about half the people referred to the clinic with a schizophrenia diagnosis didn't actually have schizophrenia.

The ways of wisdom in schizophrenia
Researchers at UC San Diego School of Medicine report that persons with schizophrenia scored lower on a wisdom assessment than non-psychiatric comparison participants, but that there was considerable variability in levels of wisdom, and those with higher scores displayed fewer psychotic symptoms.

Recognizing the uniqueness of different individuals with schizophrenia
Individuals diagnosed with schizophrenia differ greatly from one another. Researchers from Radboud university medical center, along with colleagues from England and Norway, have demonstrated that very few identical brain differences are shared amongst different patients.

Resynchronizing neurons to erase schizophrenia
Today, a decisive step in understanding schizophrenia has been taken.

Read More: Schizophrenia News and Schizophrenia Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.