Neural correlates of belief and emotion attribution in schizophrenia

Academic Article


  • Impaired mental state attribution is a core social cognitive deficit in schizophrenia. With functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), this study examined the extent to which the core neural system of mental state attribution is involved in mental state attribution, focusing on belief attribution and emotion attribution. Fifteen schizophrenia outpatients and 14 healthy controls performed two mental state attribution tasks in the scanner. In a Belief Attribution Task, after reading a short vignette, participants were asked infer either the belief of a character (a false belief condition) or a physical state of an affair (a false photograph condition). In an Emotion Attribution Task, participants were asked either to judge whether character(s) in pictures felt unpleasant, pleasant, or neutral emotion (other condition) or to look at pictures that did not have any human characters (view condition). fMRI data were analyzing focusing on a priori regions of interest (ROIs) of the core neural systems of mental state attribution: the medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC), temporoparietal junction (TPJ) and precuneus. An exploratory whole brain analysis was also performed. Both patients and controls showed greater activation in all four ROIs during the Belief Attribution Task than the Emotion Attribution Task. Patients also showed less activation in the precuneus and left TPJ compared to controls during the Belief Attribution Task. No significant group difference was found during the Emotion Attribution Task in any of ROIs. An exploratory whole brain analysis showed a similar pattern of neural activations. These findings suggest that while schizophrenia patients rely on the same neural network as controls do when attributing beliefs of others, patients did not show reduced activation in the key regions such as the TPJ. Further, this study did not find evidence for aberrant neural activation during emotion attribution or recruitment of compensatory brain regions in schizophrenia.
  • Authors

    Published In

  • PLoS One  Journal
  • Digital Object Identifier (doi)

    Author List

  • Lee J; Horan WP; Wynn JK; Green MF
  • Volume

  • 11
  • Issue

  • 11