Empathy deficit is a core feature of schizophrenia which may lead to social dysfunction. The present study was carried out to investigate functional and structural abnormalities associated with empathy in patients with schizophrenia using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) and voxel-based morphometry (VBM). A sample of 14 schizophrenia patients and 14 healthy control subjects matched for age, sex and education were examined with structural high-resolution T1-weighted MRI; fMRI images were obtained during empathy task in the same session. The analysis was carried out using SPM8 software. On behavioural assessment, schizophrenic patients (83.00±29.04) showed less scores for sadness compared to healthy controls (128.70±22.26) (𝑝 < 0.001). fMRI results also showed reduced clusters of activation in the bilateral fusiform gyrus, left lingual gyrus, left middle and inferior occipital gyrus in schizophrenic subjects as compared to controls during empathy task. In the same brain areas, VBM results also showed reduced grey and white matter volumes. The present study provides an evidence for an association between structural alterations and disturbed functional brain activation during empathy task in persons affected with schizophrenia. These findings suggest a biological basis for social cognition deficits in schizophrenics.
Volume 45, 2020
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