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Overactivation of fear systems to neutral faces in schizophrenia

Hall, Jeremy, Whalley, Heather C., McKirdy, James W., Romaniuk, Liana, McGonigle, David, McIntosh, Andrew M., Baig, Ben J., Gountouna, Viktoria-Eleni, Job, Dominic E., Donaldson, David I., Sprengelmeyer, Reiner, Young, Andrew W., Johnstone, Eve C. and Lawrie, Stephen M. 2008. Overactivation of fear systems to neutral faces in schizophrenia. Biological Psychiatry 64 (1) , pp. 70-73. 10.1016/j.biopsych.2007.12.014

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Background: The amygdala plays a central role in detecting and responding to fear-related stimuli. A number of recent studies have reported decreased amygdala activation in schizophrenia to emotional stimuli (such as fearful faces) compared with matched neutral stimuli (such as neutral faces). We investigated whether the apparent decrease in amygdala activation in schizophrenia could actually derive from increased amygdala activation to the neutral comparator stimuli. Methods: Nineteen patients with schizophrenia and 24 matched control participants viewed pictures of faces with either fearful or neutral facial expressions, and a baseline condition, during functional magnetic resonance imaging scanning. Results: Patients with schizophrenia showed a relative decrease in amygdala activation to fearful faces compared with neutral faces. However, this difference resulted from an increase in amygdala activation to the neutral faces in patients with schizophrenia, not from a decreased response to the fearful faces. Conclusions: Patients with schizophrenia show an increased response of the amygdala to neutral faces. This is sufficient to explain their apparent deficit in amygdala activation to fearful faces compared with neutral faces. The inappropriate activation of neural systems involved in fear to otherwise neutral stimuli may contribute to the development of psychotic symptoms in schizophrenia.

Item Type: Article
Date Type: Publication
Status: Published
Schools: Biosciences
Cardiff University Brain Research Imaging Centre (CUBRIC)
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology
R Medicine > RC Internal medicine > RC0321 Neuroscience. Biological psychiatry. Neuropsychiatry
Uncontrolled Keywords: Amygdala; emotion; face; fear; fMRI; schizophrenia
Additional Information: Cognitive Neuroscience Approaches to Treatment Development of Impaired Cognition in Schizophrenia: Proceedings of the First Meeting of the CNTRICS Initiative
Publisher: Elsevier
ISSN: 0006-3223
Last Modified: 17 Jun 2017 02:57

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