Decreased activity in right-hemisphere structures involved in social cognition in siblings discordant for schizophrenia

Delfina de Achával, Mirta F. Villarreal, Elsa Y. Costanzo, Jazmín Douer, Mariana N. Castro, Martina C. Mora, Charles B. Nemeroff, Elvina Chu, Karl Jürgen Bär, Salvador M. Guinjoan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

49 Scopus citations


Background: Social cognitive deficits contribute to functional disability in schizophrenia. Social cognitive tasks in healthy persons consistently evoke activation of medial prefrontal cortex, inferior frontal gyrus, temporoparietal gyrus, and posterior cingulate cortex/precuneus. We tested the hypothesis that patients with schizophrenia and their unaffected siblings share dysfunction of the same neural networks. Methods: Neural activation during emotion processing (EP), theory of mind (ToM), and control tasks was measured using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) in 14 patients with schizophrenia, 14 nonpsychotic siblings of patients with schizophrenia, and 14 matched healthy subjects. Results: Compared with healthy controls, patients with schizophrenia showed reduced activation of right hemisphere structures involved in EP and ToM including inferior frontal gyrus, middle frontal gyrus, and right temporoparietal junction. These deficits were shared, in part, by unaffected siblings. The latter group demonstrated deficits in bilateral precuneus activation during ToM, not present in patients. Conclusions: Schizophrenia appears to be associated with a deficit in activation of right hemisphere components of a ToM network. Such deficits are shared in part by those at high genetic risk but unaffected by schizophrenia.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)171-179
Number of pages9
JournalSchizophrenia Research
Issue number2-3
StatePublished - Feb 2012


  • FMRI
  • Lateralization
  • Schizophrenia
  • Siblings
  • Social cognition
  • Theory of mind

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Biological Psychiatry


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