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Absent activation in medial prefrontal cortex and temporoparietal junction but not superior temporal sulcus during the perception of biological motion in schizophrenia: a functional MRI study

Authors Hashimoto N, Toyomaki A, Hirai M, Miyamoto T, Narita H, Okubo R, Kusumi I

Received 26 June 2014

Accepted for publication 1 September 2014

Published 17 November 2014 Volume 2014:10 Pages 2221—2230


Checked for plagiarism Yes

Review by Single anonymous peer review

Peer reviewer comments 3

Editor who approved publication: Dr Roger Pinder

Naoki Hashimoto,1,2 Atsuhito Toyomaki,1 Masahiro Hirai,3 Tamaki Miyamoto,1 Hisashi Narita,1 Ryo Okubo,1 Ichiro Kusumi1

1Department of Psychiatry, Graduate School of Medicine, Hokkaido University, Sapporo, Japan; 2Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, Department of Psychiatry, University of California, San Francisco, CA, USA; 3Center for Development of Advanced Medical Technology, Jichi Medical University, Yakushiji, Shimotsuke, Tochigi, Japan

Background: Patients with schizophrenia show disturbances in both visual perception and social cognition. Perception of biological motion (BM) is a higher-level visual process, and is known to be associated with social cognition. BM induces activation in the “social brain network”, including the superior temporal sulcus (STS). Although deficits in the detection of BM and atypical activation in the STS have been reported in patients with schizophrenia, it remains unclear whether other nodes of the “social brain network” are also atypical in patients with schizophrenia.
Purpose: We aimed to explore whether brain regions other than STS were involved during BM perception in patients with schizophrenia, using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI).
Methods and patients: Seventeen patients with schizophrenia, and 17 age- and sex- matched healthy controls, underwent fMRI scanning during a one-back visual task, containing three experimental conditions: (1) BM, (2) scrambled motion (SM), and (3) static condition. We used one-sample t-tests to examine neural responses selective to BM versus SM within each group, and two-sample t-tests to directly compare neural patterns to BM versus SM in schizophrenics versus controls.
Results: We found significant activation in the STS region when BM was contrasted with SM in both groups, with no significant difference between groups. On the contrary, significant activation in the medial prefrontal cortex (MPFC) and bilateral temporoparietal junction (TPJ) was found only in the control group. When we directly compared the two groups, the healthy controls showed significant greater activation in left MPFC and TPJ to BM versus SM than patients with schizophrenia.
Conclusion: Our findings suggest that patients with schizophrenia show normal activation to biologically and socially relevant motion stimuli in the STS, but atypical activation in other regions of the social brain network, specifically MPFC and TPJ. Moreover, these results were not due to atypical processing of motion, suggesting that patients with schizophrenia lack in the recruitment of neural circuits needed for the visual perception of social cognition.

Keywords: cognitive processing, social cognition, social brain network, mentalizing, theory of mind

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