He, Y., Steines, M., Sammer, G., Nagels, A., Kircher, T., Straube, B. (accepted). Modality-specific dysfunctional neural processing of social-abstract and non-social-concrete information in schizophrenia. NeuroImage: Clinical
Schizophrenia is characterized by marked communication dysfunctions encompassing potential impairments in the processing of social-abstract and non-social-concrete information, especially in everyday situations where multiple modalities are present in the form of speech and gesture. To date, the neurobiological basis of these deficits remains elusive. In a functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) study, 17 patients with schizophrenia or schizoaffective disorder, and 18 matched controls watched videos of an actor speaking, gesturing (unimodal), and both speaking and gesturing (bimodal) about social or non-social events in a naturalistic way. Participants were asked to judge whether each video contains person-related (social) or object-related (non-social) information. When processing social-abstract content, patients showed reduced activation in the medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC) only in the gesture but not in the speech condition. For non-social-concrete content, remarkably, reduced neural activation for patients in the left postcentral gyrus and the right insula was observed only in the speech condition. Moreover, in the bimodal conditions, patients displayed improved task performance and comparable activation to controls in both social and non-social content. To conclude, patients with schizophrenia displayed modality-specific aberrant neural processing of social and non-social information, which is not present for the bimodal conditions. This finding provides novel insights into dysfunctional multimodal communication in schizophrenia, and may have potential therapeutic implications.