Decreased neural response for facial emotion processing in subjects with high genetic load for schizophrenia

Prog Neuropsychopharmacol Biol Psychiatry. 2016 Nov 3:71:90-6. doi: 10.1016/j.pnpbp.2016.06.014. Epub 2016 Jun 30.


Background: Patients with schizophrenia show impairment in facial emotion processing which is essential for successful social cognition. Using a functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), this study aimed to investigate the implicit facial emotion recognition processing in participants with high genetic load for schizophrenia (GHR) as a possible trait marker of developing schizophrenia.

Methods: Block design fMRI of implicit facial emotion processing was used in 20 participants with GHR aged 16-35, and 17 age, sex, and education year-matched healthy controls (HC). During the facial emotional processing for fearful, happy, and neutral face stimuli, participants were asked to explicitly determine the gender per stimuli.

Results: Occipito-temporo-limbic area in fearful face condition and involvement of broader region including prefrontal cortex in neutral face condition revealed significant attenuation of BOLD signal activation in GHR compared to HC. The GHR demonstrated less activity in right amygdala during fearful and neutral face condition.

Conclusion: The study presented that GHR displayed abnormal brain activity in occipito-temporo-limbic-frontal network implicated in facial emotion processing. It indicates that abnormal facial emotion processing may be influenced by a genetic factor and could be a trait marker in schizophrenia.

Keywords: Amygdala; Facial emotion processing; First-degree relatives; Functional magnetic resonance imaging; Schizophrenia.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Brain / diagnostic imaging*
  • Brain Mapping*
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Facial Expression*
  • Fear
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Image Processing, Computer-Assisted
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Mood Disorders / etiology*
  • Oxygen / blood
  • Photic Stimulation
  • Schizophrenia* / complications
  • Schizophrenia* / genetics
  • Schizophrenia* / pathology
  • Schizophrenic Psychology*
  • Young Adult


  • Oxygen