Social perceptual deficits in schizophrenia are well established. Recent work suggests that the ability to extract social information from bodily cues is reduced in patients. However, little is known about the neurobiological mechanisms underlying this deficit. In the current study, 20 schizophrenia patients and 16 controls completed two tasks using point-light animations during fMRI: a basic biological motion task and an emotion in biological motion task. The basic biological motion task was used to localize activity in posterior superior temporal sulcus (pSTS), a critical region for biological motion perception. During the emotion in biological motion task, participants viewed brief videos depicting happiness, fear, anger, or neutral emotions and were asked to decide which emotion was portrayed. Activity in pSTS and amygdala was interrogated during this task. Results indicated that patients showed overall reduced activation compared to controls in pSTS and at a trend level in amygdala across emotions, despite similar task performance. Further, a functional connectivity analysis revealed that controls, but not patients, showed significant positive connectivity between pSTS and left frontal regions as well as bilateral angular gyrus during the emotion in biological motion task. These findings indicate that schizophrenia patients show aberrant neural activity and functional connectivity when extracting complex social information from simple motion stimuli, which may contribute to social perception deficits in this disorder.
Keywords: pSTS, posterior superior temporal sulcus.