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Neuropsychologia. 2008;46(7):1992-2001. doi: 10.1016/j.neuropsychologia.2008.01.023. Epub 2008 Feb 7.

An fMRI study of theory of mind in schizophrenic patients with "passivity" symptoms.

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  • 1Department of Psychiatry, Ruhr-University Bochum, LWL Hospital, Alexandrinenstr 1, 44791 Bochum, Germany.


Several studies have shown that patients with schizophrenia underactivate brain regions involved in theory of mind relative to controls during functional brain imaging. However, in most studies the samples were fairly heterogeneous in terms of clinical symptomatology. We examined a group of nine patients with first episode or recurrent episodes, who clinically presented with predominant "passivity" symptoms such as third-person auditory hallucinations or delusion of control, using a cartoon-based theory of mind task and compared activation patterns with a group of 13 healthy controls. All patients responded well to antipsychotic treatment and were only mildly symptomatic at the time of testing. The patient group showed significantly less activation of the right anterior cingulate cortex (ACC) and right insula compared with controls, but greater activation in dorsal areas of the medial prefrontal cortex, right temporal areas and left temporo-parietal junction. Patients with schizophrenia with predominant "passivity" symptoms and good response to antipsychotic treatment show a markedly diverging pattern of brain activation during theory of mind task performance compared with healthy controls. These findings suggest abnormal activation of those brain areas involved in the evaluation of self-reference during mental state attribution.

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