Altered brain long-range functional interactions underlying the link between aberrant self-experience and self-other relationship in first-episode schizophrenia.
Ebisch SJH., Mantini D., Northoff G., Salone A., De Berardis D., Ferri F., Ferro FM., Di Giannantonio M., Romani GL., Gallese V.
Self-experience anomalies are elementary features of schizophrenic pathology. Such deficits can have a profound impact on self-other relationship, but how they are related through aberrant brain function remains poorly understood. In this functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) study, we provide new evidence for a cortical link between aberrant self-experience and social cognition in first-episode schizophrenia (FES). As identified in previous studies, ventral premotor cortex (vPMC) and posterior insula (pIC) are candidate brain regions underlying disturbances in both self-experience and self-other relationship due to their processing of predominantly externally guided (vPMC; goal-oriented behavior) and internally guided (pIC; interoception) stimuli. Results from functional interaction analysis in a sample of 24 FES patients and 22 healthy controls show aberrant functional interactions (background/intrinsic connectivity) of right vPMC and bilateral pIC with posterior cingulate cortex (PCC), a midline region that has been shown central in mediating self-experience. More specifically, our results show increased functional coupling between vPMC and PCC, which positively correlated with basic symptoms (subjective self-experience disturbances). pIC showed reduced functional coupling with PCC and postcentral gyrus and increased functional interactions with anterior insula. Taken together, our results suggest an imbalance in the processing between internally and externally guided information and its abnormal integration with self-referential processing as mediated by PCC. Due to our correlation findings, we suggest this imbalance to be closely related to basic symptoms in FES and thus anomalous self-experience. The findings further disentangle the cortical basis of how self-experience anomalies may pervade the social domain.