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Brain mapping confirms patients with schizophrenia have impaired ability to imitate
Date:3/14/2014

g imitation, the patients had less activation than healthy individuals in brain regions involved in detecting biological movement the special way in which living things move and also in regions involved in transforming this visual information into a plan for movement. At the same time, patients with schizophrenia had more activation than the healthy participants in these same regions when they performed non-imitative actions.

"Essentially, the brain network involved in imitation appears less specialized for social information in patients with schizophrenia," said Sohee Park, Gertrude Conaway Vanderbilt Chair of Psychology, who directed the study. "The brain network involved in processing social stimuli is finely tuned in healthy people, but is out of tune in individuals with schizophrenia."

The specific areas of the brain that become over-active and under-active are associated with the "mirror neuron" system. Mirror neurons are networks of neurons that fire both when an animal acts and when it observes the same action performed by another. They have been directly observed in the brains of primates. In humans, neuroscientists have located areas using brain-mapping techniques that appear to act in a similar fashion.

"The mirror neuron system raises the question of agency," Park observed. "If the same group of neurons fire when I am writing and when I watch you writing, how do I know who is doing the writing? But we are almost always certain of who is doing what. Our research implicates the role of this network in individuals with schizophrenia who frequently have serious problems determining agency."

Because the disorder appears to be a matter of improperly tuned brain circuitry, Park does not hold much hope for attempts to find a drug to treat schizophrenia. "No one pill can do the job," she said. Instead, the neuroscientist sees greater promise in developing training methods to improve schizophrenia sufferers' basic cognitive sk
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Contact: David Salisbury
david.salisbury@vanderbilt.edu
615-343-6803
Vanderbilt University
Source:Eurekalert  

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