Social cognitive dysfunction, including deficits in facial emotion recognition and theory of mind, is a core feature of schizophrenia and more strongly predicts functional outcome than neurocognition alone. Although traditionally considered to play an important role in motor coordination, the cerebellum has been suggested to play a role in emotion processing and theory of mind, and also shows structural and functional abnormalities in schizophrenia. The aim of this systematic review was to investigate the specific role of the cerebellum in emotion and theory of mind deficits in schizophrenia using previously published functional neuroimaging studies. PubMed and PsycINFO were used to search for all functional neuroimaging studies reporting altered cerebellum activity in schizophrenia patients during emotion processing or theory of mind tasks, published until December 2014. Overall, 14 functional neuroimaging studies were retrieved. Most emotion studies reported lower cerebellum activity in schizophrenia patients relative to healthy controls. In contrast, the theory of mind studies reported mixed findings. Altered activity was observed across several posterior cerebellar regions involved in emotion and cognition. Weaker cerebellum activity in schizophrenia patients relative to healthy controls during emotion processing may contribute to blunted affect and reduced ability to recognise emotion in others. This research could be expanded by examining the relationship between cerebellum function, symptomatology and behaviour, and examining cerebellum functional connectivity in patients during emotion and theory of mind tasks.
Keywords: Cerebellum; Emotion; Neuroimaging; Schizophrenia; Social cognition.