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Neuroimage. 2011 Oct 1;58(3):935-45. doi: 10.1016/j.neuroimage.2011.06.059. Epub 2011 Jun 30.

Social anhedonia is associated with neural abnormalities during face emotion processing.

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1
Department of Psychology, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA 02138, USA. lgermine@fas.harvard.edu

Abstract

Human beings are social organisms with an intrinsic desire to seek and participate in social interactions. Social anhedonia is a personality trait characterized by a reduced desire for social affiliation and reduced pleasure derived from interpersonal interactions. Abnormally high levels of social anhedonia prospectively predict the development of schizophrenia and contribute to poorer outcomes for schizophrenia patients. Despite the strong association between social anhedonia and schizophrenia, the neural mechanisms that underlie individual differences in social anhedonia have not been studied and are thus poorly understood. Deficits in face emotion recognition are related to poorer social outcomes in schizophrenia, and it has been suggested that face emotion recognition deficits may be a behavioral marker for schizophrenia liability. In the current study, we used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to see whether there are differences in the brain networks underlying basic face emotion processing in a community sample of individuals low vs. high in social anhedonia. We isolated the neural mechanisms related to face emotion processing by comparing face emotion discrimination with four other baseline conditions (identity discrimination of emotional faces, identity discrimination of neutral faces, object discrimination, and pattern discrimination). Results showed a group (high/low social anhedonia) × condition (emotion discrimination/control condition) interaction in the anterior portion of the rostral medial prefrontal cortex, right superior temporal gyrus, and left somatosensory cortex. As predicted, high (relative to low) social anhedonia participants showed less neural activity in face emotion processing regions during emotion discrimination as compared to each control condition. The findings suggest that social anhedonia is associated with abnormalities in networks responsible for basic processes associated with social cognition, and provide a starting point for understanding the neural basis of social motivation and our drive to seek social affiliation.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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