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During the months before and after he saw Julius Caesar assassinated on the Ides of March, 44 BC, Cicero wrote two philosophical dialogues about religion and theology: On the Nature of the Gods and On Divination. This book brings to life his portraits of Stoic and Epicurean theology, as well as the scepticism of the new Academy, his own school. We meet the Epicurean gods who live a life of pleasure and care nothing for us, the determinism and beauty of the Stoic universe, itself our benevolent creator, and the reply to both that traditional religion is better served by a lack of dogma. Cicero hoped that these reflections would renew the traditional religion at Rome, with its prayers and sacrifices, temples and statues, myths and poets, and all forms of divination. This volume is the first to fully investigate Cicero's dialogues as the work of a careful philosophical author.
Although several aspects of emotion seem to be intact in schizophrenia, there is emerging evidence that patients show an impaired ability to adaptively regulate their emotions. This event-related potential (ERP) study examined whether schizophrenia is associated with impaired neural responses to appraisal frames, that is when negative stimuli are presented in a less negative context.
Thirty-one schizophrenia out-patients and 27 healthy controls completed a validated picture-viewing task with three conditions: (1) neutral pictures preceded by neutral descriptions (‘Neutral’), (2) unpleasant pictures preceded by negative descriptions (‘Preappraised negative’), and (3) unpleasant pictures preceded by more neutral descriptions (‘Preappraised neutral’). Analyses focused on the late positive potential (LPP), an index of facilitated attention to emotional stimuli that is reduced following cognitive emotion regulation strategies, during four time windows from 300 to 2000 ms post-picture onset.
Replicating prior studies, controls showed smaller LPP in Preappraised neutral and Neutral versus Preappraised negative conditions throughout the 300–2000-ms time period. By contrast, patients showed (a) larger LPP in Preappraised neutral and Preappraised negative versus Neutral conditions in the initial period (300–600 ms) and (b) an atypical pattern of larger LPP to Preappraised neutral versus Preappraised negative and Neutral conditions in the 600–1500-ms epochs.
Modulation of neural responses by a cognitive emotion regulation strategy seems to be impaired in schizophrenia during the first 2 s after exposure to unpleasant stimuli.
Accurate monitoring and integration of both internal and external feedback is crucial for guiding current and future behavior. These aspects of performance monitoring are commonly indexed by two event-related potential (ERP) components: error-related negativity (ERN) and feedback negativity (FN). The ERN indexes internal response monitoring and is sensitive to the commission of erroneous versus correct responses, and the FN indexes external feedback monitoring of positive versus negative outcomes. Although individuals with schizophrenia consistently demonstrate a diminished ERN, the integrity of the FN has received minimal consideration.
The current research sought to clarify the scope of feedback processing impairments in schizophrenia in two studies: study 1 examined the ERN elicited in a flanker task in 16 out-patients and 14 healthy controls; study 2 examined the FN on a simple monetary gambling task in expanded samples of 35 out-patients and 33 healthy controls.
Study 1 replicated prior reports of an impaired ERN in schizophrenia. By contrast, patients and controls demonstrated comparable FN differentiation between reward and non-reward feedback in study 2.
The differential pattern across tasks suggests that basic sensitivity to external feedback indicating reward versus non-reward is intact in schizophrenia, at least under the relatively simple task conditions used in this study. Further efforts to specify intact and impaired reward-processing subcomponents in schizophrenia may help to shed light on the diminished motivation and goal-seeking behavior that are commonly seen in this disorder.
Schizophrenia patients show disturbances on a range of tasks that assess mentalizing or ‘Theory of Mind’ (ToM). However, these tasks are often developmentally inappropriate, make large demands on verbal abilities and explicit problem-solving skills, and involve after-the-fact reflection as opposed to spontaneous mentalizing.
To address these limitations, 55 clinically stable schizophrenia out-patients and 44 healthy controls completed a validated Animations Task designed to assess spontaneous attributions of social meaning to ambiguous abstract visual stimuli. In this paradigm, 12 animations depict two geometric shapes ‘interacting’ with each other in three conditions: (1) ToM interactions that elicit attributions of mental states to the agents, (2) Goal-Directed (GD) interactions that elicit attributions of simple actions, and (3) Random scenes in which no interaction occurs. Verbal descriptions of each animation are rated for the degree of Intentionality attributed to the agents and for accuracy.
Patients had lower Intentionality ratings than controls for ToM and GD scenes but the groups did not significantly differ for Random scenes. The descriptions of the patients less closely matched the situations intended by the developers of the task. Within the schizophrenia group, performance on the Animations Task showed minimal associations with clinical symptoms.
Patients demonstrated disturbances in the spontaneous attribution of mental states to abstract visual stimuli that normally evoke such attributions. Hence, in addition to previously established impairment on mentalizing tasks that require logical inferences about others' mental states, individuals with schizophrenia show disturbances in implicit aspects of mentalizing.