Published online by Cambridge University Press: 27 November 2017
Recognition of communicative interactions is a complex social cognitive ability which is associated with a specific neural activity in healthy individuals. However, neural correlates of communicative interaction processing from whole-body motion have not been known in patients with schizophrenia (SCZ). Therefore, the current study aims to examine the neural activity associated with recognition of communicative interactions in SCZ by using displays of the dyadic interactions downgraded to minimalistic point-light presentations.
Twenty-six healthy controls (HC) and 25 SCZ were asked to judge whether two agents presented only by point-light displays were communicating or acting independently. Task-related activity and functional connectivity of brain structures were examined with General Linear Model and Generalized Psychophysiological Interaction approach, respectively.
HC were significantly more efficient in recognizing each type of action than SCZ. At the neural level, the activity of the right posterior superior temporal sulcus (pSTS) was observed to be higher in HC compared with SCZ for communicative v. individual action processing. Importantly, increased connectivity of the right pSTS with structures associated with mentalizing (left pSTS) and mirroring networks (left frontal areas) was observed in HC, but not in SCZ, during the presentation of social interactions.
Under-recruitment of the right pSTS, a structure known to have a pivotal role in social processing, may also be of importance for higher-order social cognitive deficits in SCZ. Furthermore, decreased task-related connectivity of the right pSTS may result in reduced use of additional sources of information (for instance motor resonance signals) during social cognitive processing in schizophrenia.