Emotion Perception in Schizophrenia: A Functional Connectivity Study
thesisposted on 21.07.2015, 00:00 authored by Olivia A. Bjorkquist
Individuals with schizophrenia evidence impairment in multiple aspects of emotional functioning, including emotion expression, perception, and recognition. Neuroimaging research has identified abnormalities in the amygdala as an etiological factor underlying affective impairment in this population. However, the exact nature of amygdala dysfunction remains unclear. The current study utilized psychophysiological interaction analyses to examine functional connectivity between the amygdala and medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC) during an emotion perception task. Participants with schizophrenia (SZ) and demographically-matched comparison participants (HC) viewed and rated positive, negative, and neutral images from the International Affective Picture System (IAPS) library while undergoing functional neuroimaging. Results revealed a significant group difference in right amygdala-mPFC connectivity during perception of negative compared to neutral images. Specifically, HC participants demonstrated positive functional coupling between the amygdala and mPFC, consistent with co-active processing of salient information. In contrast, SZ participants evidenced negative functional coupling, consistent with top-down inhibition of the amygdala by the mPFC. A significant positive correlation between connectivity strength during negative image perception and clinician-rated social functioning was observed in SZ participants. Similar patterns of functional coupling were observed during positive image perception, though the between-group difference failed to reach statistical significance. These results suggest that emotional dysfunction in schizophrenia may be due, in part, to abnormal interactions between the amygdala and mPFC during perception of emotional stimuli. Disturbances in functional connectivity during early stages of emotion processing could lead to impairment in higher order aspects of emotion processing, such as emotion regulation.