Perceived patient-parent relationships and neural representation of parents in schizophrenia

Eur Arch Psychiatry Clin Neurosci. 2013 Apr;263(3):259-69. doi: 10.1007/s00406-012-0334-7. Epub 2012 Jun 8.


Having a relationship with one's parents is a fundamental social interaction and is a significant environmental factor in the long-term course of illness in schizophrenia. We explored subjective reports regarding the communicative relationship with parents and the implicit behavioral and neural responses of patients toward stimuli that referred to parents. Fourteen outpatients with schizophrenia and 15 healthy volunteers with living parents were scanned using a functional magnetic resonance imaging while performing an imaginary sentence completion test that involved contemplation of their mothers and fathers. In patients with schizophrenia, subjective reports of better communicative fluency with one's mother were associated with faster response time and lower incomplete rate, reflecting favorable responses toward mothers. Relative to control participants, patients with schizophrenia demonstrated greater neural activation in the superior temporal sulcus and the parahippocampal gyrus for parental stimuli. When patients with schizophrenia contemplated their mothers, activities in these regions were associated with a level of negative symptoms or affective ambivalence in patients. The results indicated that parental cues are processed in a more socially driven manner, and that perceived communicative relationships with one's parents can be used to estimate implicit responses, especially in relation to mothers in patients with schizophrenia. Furthermore, the findings of the current study suggest that affective ambivalence toward one's mother is one such implicit response and emphasize the importance of prudent family interventions in the psychiatric rehabilitation of patients with schizophrenia.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Brain / blood supply
  • Brain / pathology*
  • Brain Mapping*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Image Processing, Computer-Assisted
  • Linear Models
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Oxygen / blood
  • Parent-Child Relations*
  • Parents / psychology
  • Perception*
  • Psychiatric Status Rating Scales
  • Schizophrenia / pathology*
  • Schizophrenia / physiopathology
  • Schizophrenic Psychology*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires


  • Oxygen