Hyperfunctioning of the right posterior superior temporal sulcus in response to neutral facial expressions presents an endophenotype of schizophrenia

Neuropsychopharmacology. 2020 Jul;45(8):1346-1352. doi: 10.1038/s41386-020-0637-8. Epub 2020 Feb 14.

Abstract

Deficits in social cognition have been proposed as a marker of schizophrenia. Growing evidence suggests especially hyperfunctioning of the right posterior superior temporal sulcus (pSTS) in response to neutral social stimuli reflecting the neural correlates of social-cognitive impairments in schizophrenia. We characterized healthy participants according to schizotypy (n = 74) and the single-nucleotide polymorphism rs1344706 in ZNF804A (n = 73), as they represent risk variants for schizophrenia from the perspectives of personality traits and genetics, respectively. A social-cognitive fMRI task was applied to investigate the association of right pSTS hyperfunctioning in response to neutral face stimuli with schizotypy and rs1344706. Higher right pSTS activation in response to neutral facial expressions was found in individuals with increased positive (trend) and disorganization symptoms, as well as in carriers of the risk allele of rs1344706. In addition, a positive association between right-left pSTS connectivity and disorganization symptoms during neutral face processing was revealed. Although these findings warrant replication, we suggest that right pSTS hyperfunctioning in response to neutral facial expressions presents an endophenotype of schizophrenia. We assume that right pSTS hyperfunctioning is a vulnerability to perceive neutral social stimuli as emotionally or intentionally salient, probably contributing to the emergence of symptoms of schizophrenia.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't