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Front. Psychiatry | doi: 10.3389/fpsyt.2018.00047

Schizophrenia and Category-Selectivity in the Brain: Normal for Faces but Abnormal for Houses

 Lisa Kronbichler1*, Renate Stelzig-Schöler2, Brandy-Gale Pearce2, Melanie Tschernegg3, Sarah Said-Yürekli1, 3, Luise A. Reich4,  Stefanie Weber2, Wolfgang Aichhorn2 and  Martin Kronbichler1, 3
  • 1Neuroscience Institute, Christian-Doppler Medical Centre, Paracelsus Medical University, Austria
  • 2Department of Psychiatry, Psychotherapy & Psychosomatics, Christian-Doppler Medical Centre, Paracelsus Medical University, Austria
  • 3University of Salzburg, Centre for Cognitive Neuroscience, University of Salzburg, Austria
  • 4Department of Psychiatry and Psychotherapy, University Medical Center Hamburg-Eppendorf, Germany

Face processing is regularly found to be impaired in schizophrenia (SZ), thus suggesting that social malfunctioning might be caused by dysfunctional face processing. Most studies focused on emotional face processes, whereas non-emotional face processing received less attention. While current reports on abnormal face processing in SZ are mixed, examinations of non-emotional face processing compared to adequate control stimuli may clarify whether SZ is characterised by a face processing deficit.
Patients with SZ (n=28) and healthy controls (n=30) engaged in an fMRI scan where images of non-emotional faces and houses were presented. A simple inverted-picture detection task warranted the participants’ attention.
Regions of Interest (ROI) analyses were conducted on face-sensitive regions including the fusiform face area, the occipital face area and the superior temporal sulcus. Scene-sensitivity was assessed in the parahippocampal place area (PPA) and served as control condition.
Patients did not show aberrant face-related neural processes in face-sensitive regions. This finding was also evident when analyses were done on individually defined ROIs or on in-house-localizer ROIs. Patients revealed a decreased specificity towards house stimuli as reflected in decreased neural response towards houses in the PPA. Again, this result was supported by supplementary analyses.
Neural activation towards neutral faces was not found to be impaired in SZ, therefore speaking against an overall face-processing deficit. Aberrant activation in scene-sensitive PPA is also found in assessments of memory processes in SZ. It is up to future studies to show how impairments in PPA relate to functional outcome in SZ.

Keywords: Schizophrenia, face perception, scene perception, Neuroimaging, specialisation;, fMRI

Received: 20 Nov 2017; Accepted: 05 Feb 2018.

Edited by:

Vaibhav A. Diwadkar, Wayne State University School of Medicine, United States

Reviewed by:

Katharine Thakkar, Michigan State University, United States
Simon Surguladze, Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology & Neuroscience (IoPPN), King's College London, United Kingdom  

Copyright: © 2018 Kronbichler, Stelzig-Schöler, Pearce, Tschernegg, Said-Yürekli, Reich, Weber, Aichhorn and Kronbichler. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) and the copyright owner are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.

* Correspondence: Mrs. Lisa Kronbichler, Christian-Doppler Medical Centre, Paracelsus Medical University, Neuroscience Institute, Ignaz-Harrer Straße 79, Salzburg, 5020, Austria, lisa.mayrhauser@sbg.ac.at