Emotion recognition and theory of mind are related to gray matter volume of the prefrontal cortex in schizophrenia

Arija Maat, Neeltje E.M. van Haren, Cali F. Bartholomeusz, René S. Kahn, Wiepke Cahn*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

25 Citations (Scopus)


Investigations of social cognition in schizophrenia have demonstrated consistent impairments compared to healthy controls. Functional imaging studies in schizophrenia patients and healthy controls have revealed that social cognitive processing depends critically on the amygdala and the prefrontal cortex (PFC). However, the relationship between social cognition and structural brain abnormalities in these regions in schizophrenia patients is less well understood. Measures of facial emotion recognition and theory of mind (ToM), two key social cognitive abilities, as well as face perception and IQ, were assessed in 166 patients with schizophrenia and 134 healthy controls. MRI brain scans were acquired. Automated parcellation of the brain to determine gray matter volume of the amygdala and the superior, middle, inferior and orbital PFC was performed. Between-group analyses showed poorer recognition of angry faces and ToM performance, and decreased amygdala and PFC gray matter volumes in schizophrenia patients as compared to healthy controls. Moreover, in schizophrenia patients, recognition of angry faces was associated with inferior PFC gray matter volume, particularly the pars triangularis (p=0.006), with poor performance being related to reduced pars triangularis gray matter volume. In addition, ToM ability was related to PFC gray matter volume, particularly middle PFC (p=0.001), in that poor ToM skills in schizophrenia patients were associated with reduced middle PFC gray matter volume. In conclusion, reduced PFC, but not amygdala, gray matter volume is associated with social cognitive deficits in schizophrenia.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)255-264
Number of pages10
JournalEuropean Neuropsychopharmacology
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2016
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The infrastructure for the GROUP study was funded through the Geestkracht programme of the Dutch Health Research Council (ZON-MW, Grant no. 10-000-1002 ), and matching funds from participating Pharmaceutical Companies (Lundbeck, AstraZeneca, Eli Lilly, Janssen Cilag) and Universities and Mental Health Care Organizations (Amsterdam: Academic Psychiatric Center of the Academic Medical Center and the mental health institutions: GGZ Ingeest, Arkin, Dijk en Duin, Rivierduinen, Erasmus Medical Center, GGZ Noord Holland Noord. Maastricht: Maastricht University Medical Center and the mental health institutions: GGZ Eindhoven, GGZ Midden-Brabant, GGZ Oost-Brabant, GGZ Noord-Midden Limburg, Mondriaan Zorggroep, Prins Clauscentrum Sittard, RIAGG Roermond, Universitair Centrum Sint-Jozef Kortenberg, CAPRI University of Antwerp, PC Ziekeren Sint-Truiden, PZ Sancta Maria Sint-Truiden, GGZ Overpelt, OPZ Rekem. Groningen: University Medical Center Groningen and the mental health institutions: Lentis, GGZ Friesland, GGZ Drenthe, Dimence, Mediant, GGZ De Grote Rivieren and Parnassia psycho-medical centre (The Hague). Utrecht: University Medical Center Utrecht and the mental health institutions Altrecht, Symfora, Meerkanten, Riagg Amersfoort and Delta).

Publisher Copyright:
© 2015 Elsevier B.V. and ECNP.


Dive into the research topics of 'Emotion recognition and theory of mind are related to gray matter volume of the prefrontal cortex in schizophrenia'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this