Background. A better understanding of the neural basis of social cognition including mindreading (or theory of mind) and empathy might help to explain some deficits in social functioning in people with schizophrenia. Our aim was to review neuroimaging and neuropsychological studies on social cognition, as they may shed light on the neural mechanisms of social cognition and its dysfunction in patients with schizophrenia.
Method. A selective literature review was undertaken.
Results. Neuroimaging and neuropsychological studies suggest convergence upon specific networks for mindreading and empathy (the temporal cortex, amygdala and the prefrontal cortex). The frontal lobe is likely to play a central role in enabling social cognition, but mindreading and empathic abilities may require relatively different weighting of subcomponents within the same frontal-temporal social cognition network.
Conclusions. Disturbances in social cognition may represent an abnormal interaction between frontal lobe and its functionally connected cortical and subcortical areas. Future studies should seek to explore the heterogeneity of social dysfunction within schizophrenia.