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A common neural system mediating two different forms of social judgement

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  08 October 2009

J. Hall*
Affiliation:
Division of Psychiatry, University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh, UK
H. C. Whalley
Affiliation:
Division of Psychiatry, University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh, UK
J. W. McKirdy
Affiliation:
Division of Psychiatry, University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh, UK
R. Sprengelmeyer
Affiliation:
School of Psychology, University of St Andrews, St Andrews, UK
I. M. Santos
Affiliation:
Department of Educational Sciences, University of Aveiro, Campus Universitario de Santiago, Aveiro, Portugal
D. I. Donaldson
Affiliation:
Psychology Department, University of Stirling, Stirling, UK
D. J. McGonigle
Affiliation:
Schools of Psychology and Biosciences, University of Cardiff, Cardiff, UK
A. W. Young
Affiliation:
Department of Psychology and York Neuroimaging Centre, University of York, York, UK
A. M. McIntosh
Affiliation:
Division of Psychiatry, University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh, UK
E. C. Johnstone
Affiliation:
Division of Psychiatry, University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh, UK
S. M. Lawrie
Affiliation:
Division of Psychiatry, University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh, UK
*
*Address for correspondence: Dr J. Hall, Division of Psychiatry, University of Edinburgh, Kennedy Tower, Royal Edinburgh Hospital, Edinburgh EH10 5HF, UK. (Email: jhall5@staffmail.ed.ac.uk)

Abstract

Background

A wide range of neuropsychiatric conditions, including schizophrenia and autistic spectrum disorder (ASD), are associated with impairments in social function. Previous studies have shown that individuals with schizophrenia and ASD have deficits in making a wide range of social judgements from faces, including decisions related to threat (such as judgements of approachability) and decisions not related to physical threat (such as judgements of intelligence). We have investigated healthy control participants to see whether there is a common neural system activated during such social decisions, on the basis that deficits in this system may contribute to the impairments seen in these disorders.

Method

We investigated the neural basis of social decision making during judgements of approachability and intelligence from faces in 24 healthy participants using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). We used conjunction analysis to identify common brain regions activated during both tasks.

Results

Activation of the amygdala, medial prefrontal cortex, inferior prefrontal cortex and cerebellum was seen during performance of both social tasks, compared to simple gender judgements from the same stimuli. Task-specific activations were present in the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex in the intelligence task and in the inferior and middle temporal cortex in the approachability task.

Conclusions

The present study identified a common network of brain regions activated during the performance of two different forms of social judgement from faces. Dysfunction of this network is likely to contribute to the broad-ranging deficits in social function seen in psychiatric disorders such as schizophrenia and ASD.

Type
Original Articles
Copyright
Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2009

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