Attributional style means how people typically infer the causes of emotional behaviors. No study has shown neural basis of attributional style in schizophrenia, although it was suggested as a major area of social cognition research of schizophrenia. Fifteen patients with schizophrenia and 16 healthy controls underwent functional magnetic resonance imaging while performing three (happy, angry, and neutral) conditions of attribution task. Each condition included inferring situational causes of an avatar' (virtual character) emotional or neutral behavior. In the between-groups contrast maps of the happy conditions, the patient group compared to the control group showed decreased activations in the inferior frontal (BA 44) and the ventral premotor cortex (BA 6), in which the % signal changes were associated with negative symptoms. In the angry conditions, the patient group compared to the control group exhibited increased activations in the precuneus/posterior cingulate cortex (Pcu/PCC) (BA 7/31), in which the % signal changes were related to positive symptoms. In conclusion, patients with schizophrenia may have functional deficits in mirror neuron system when attributing positive behaviors, which may be related to a lack of inner simulation and empathy and negative symptoms. In contrast, patients may have increased activation in the Pcu/PCC related to self-representations while attributing negative behaviors, which may be related to failures in self- and source-monitoring and positive symptoms.
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