Social appraisal in chronic psychosis: Role of medial frontal and occipital networks

Stephan F. Taylor, Ashley C. Chen, Ivy F. Tso, Israel Liberzon, Robert C. Welsh

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

29 Scopus citations


Persons with schizophrenia often appraise other individuals as threatening or persecutory. To evaluate social appraisal in schizophrenia, we probed brain networks with a task in which subjects judged whether or not they liked face stimuli with emotional expressions. We predicted that appraising negative expressions would engage patients, more than controls, and negative faces would be related to higher levels of negative affect and produce increased activity in the medial frontal cortex, an area involved in social appraisal. Twenty-one stable outpatients with chronic non-affective psychosis (16 schizophrenic, 5 schizoaffective) and 21 healthy subjects underwent functional magnetic resonance imaging. Compared with the control subjects, patients were slower to respond, but particularly slow when they judged negatively-valenced faces, a slowness correlated with negative affect in the psychosis patients. Appraisal activated the medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC) across all face valences. For negative expressions, patients exhibited greater activation of the dorsal anterior cingulate cortex (dACC). A psychophysiological interaction analysis of the dACC revealed co-modulation of the mPFC in controls, significantly less in patients, and a trend for co-modulation of occipital cortex in the patients. Activity in occipital cortex correlated with poor social adjustment and impaired social cognition, and co-modulation of the occipital gyrus by the dACC was correlated with poorer social cognition. The findings link appraisal of negative affect with aberrant activation of the medial frontal cortex, while early sensory processing of this social cognitive task was linked with poor social function, reflecting either top-down or bottom-up influences.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)526-538
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Psychiatric Research
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 2011


  • Anterior cingulate cortex
  • Faces
  • Schizophrenia
  • Visual cortex

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Biological Psychiatry


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