Examining Social Cognition Impairments in those with Schizophrenia, First Degree Relatives, and Healthy Controls

Yolanda Whitaker, BS

Massachusetts General Hospital – Clinical Research Coordinator

Scientific Abstract

Abnormalities in higher-level social cognition (SC) and in sensorimotor processes may contribute to the social dysfunction observed in schizophrenia. However, the relationships between these two types of abnormalities and their neurobiological mechanisms remain unclear. Thus, this study measured several SC and sensorimotor processes in those with a psychotic disorder (n=53, SCZ), those with a first-degree relative with psychosis (n=31), and healthy controls (n=66).

Performances on tasks measuring theory of mind, facial affect recognition, and face discrimination were impaired in SCZ but unaffected in relatives, whereas personal space regulation was impaired in both SCZ and relatives, compared to controls. Moreover, in the SCZ group only, facial affect recognition accuracy was predicted by face discrimination ability, and theory of mind performance was predicted by both face discrimination ability and personal space regulation.

Overall, these findings provide additional evidence for links between changes in lower-level sensorimotor processes and deficits in higher-order social cognition in schizophrenia. These results also suggest that some SC deficits in schizophrenia may be more heritable than others.



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research Areas


Yolanda I. Whitaker, B.S, Nicole R. DeTore, PhD, Clayton M. Jeffrey, B.A, Zahra Nasiriavanaki, M.D & Daphne J. Holt, M.D., PhD

Principal Investigator

Daphne J. Holt, M.D., PhD

Affiliated Website