Aberrant emotional salience attribution has been reported to be an important clinical feature in patients with schizophrenia. Real life stimuli that incorporate both positive and negative emotional traits lead to affective asymmetry such as negativity bias and positivity offset. In this study, we investigated the neural correlates of emotional salience attribution in patients with schizophrenia when affective asymmetry was processed. Fifteen patients with schizophrenia and 14 healthy controls were scanned using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) while performing an emotion judgment task in which two pictures were juxtaposed. The task consisted of responding to affective asymmetry condition (ambivalent and neutral) and affective symmetry conditions (positive and negative), and group comparisons were performed for each condition. Significantly higher activity in the medial prefrontal cortex and inferior frontal gyrus was observed for the ambivalent condition than for the other conditions in controls, but not in patients. Compared with controls, patients showed decreased activities in the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, dorsal anterior cingulate cortex, insula, and putamen for the ambivalent condition, but no changes were observed for the neutral condition. Multiple prefrontal hypoactivities during salience attribution of negativity bias in schizophrenia may underlie deficits in the integrative processing of emotional information. Regional abnormalities in the salience network may be the basis of defective emotional salience attribution in schizophrenia, which is likely involved in symptom formation and social dysfunction.
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