Background: Familiarity disorders (FDs) critically impact social cognition in persons with schizophrenia. FDs can affect both relationships with people familiar to the patient and the patient's relationship with himself, in the case of a self-disorder. Skin conductance response (SCR) studies have shown that familiar and unknown faces elicit the same emotional response in persons with schizophrenia with FD. Moreover, in control subjects, one's own face and familiar faces have been shown to activate strongly overlapping neural networks, suggesting common processing. The aim of the present study was to determine whether the mechanisms involved in processing one's own and familiar faces are similarly impaired in persons with schizophrenia, suggesting a link between them.
Method: Twenty-eight persons with schizophrenia were compared with twenty control subjects. Three face conditions were used: specific familiar, self and unknown. The task was to indicate the gender of the faces presented randomly on a screen during SCR recording. Face recognition was evaluated afterwards.
Results: Control subjects exhibited similar SCRs for the familiar and self-conditions, which were higher than the responses elicited by the unknown condition, whereas persons with schizophrenia exhibited no significant differences between the three conditions.
Conclusion: Persons with schizophrenia have a core defect of both self and familiarity that is emphasised by the lack of an increased SCR upon presentation with either self or familiar stimuli. Familiarity with specific familiar faces and one's own face may be driven by the same mechanism. This perturbation may predispose persons with schizophrenia to delusions and, in particular, to general familiarity disorder.
Keywords: Capgras; Familiarity; Schizophrenia; Self; Skin conductance response.
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