Do Similar Neural Profiles Underlie Social Cognitive Deficits in Schizophrenia and High-functioning Autism? Public Deposited

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  • March 20, 2019
  • Pinkham, Amy E.
    • Affiliation: College of Arts and Sciences, Department of Psychology and Neuroscience
  • Previous research suggests that schizophrenia and autism share similar behavioral deficits in social cognition. This study investigated both neural activation and behavioral performance during a task of complex social cognition in healthy controls, individuals with high-functioning autism, and individuals with schizophrenia. Event-related functional magnetic resonance imaging was utilized as individuals viewed faces and made ratings of trustworthiness. It was hypothesized that both clinical groups would show reduced activation in discrete brain regions comprising a social cognitive neural circuit, which included the amygdala, the fusiform face area (FFA) of the fusiform gyrus, and the superior temporal sulcus (STS). Activation in the ventrolateral prefrontal cortex (VLPFC) was also examined as this area has been implicated in the process of making evaluative judgments. Results largely confirmed the main study hypothesis: both clinical groups showed significant reductions in neural activation while making complex social judgments compared to nonclinical controls. Significant reductions for both clinical groups were evident in the right amygdala and FFA and left VLPFC, and no differences in neural activation were evident between the clinical groups. Behavioral performance on the Trustworthiness task significantly differed only between control individuals and individuals with schizophrenia; the two clinical groups did not significantly differ from one another. These findings suggest that individuals with schizophrenia and individuals with autism share similar neural abnormalities that may underlie social cognitive deficits.
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  • Penn, David L.
  • Open access

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