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Looking on the bright side

The neural basis of emotion processing and regulation in groups at increased risk for psychosis
PhD ceremony:Ms J. (Jorien) van der Velde
When:January 14, 2015
Supervisors:prof. dr. A. (Andre) Aleman, prof. dr. D. Wiersma
Co-supervisor:R. (Richard) Bruggeman
Where:Academy building RUG
Faculty:Medical Sciences / UMCG
Looking on the bright side

Research has shown that patients with schizophrenia experience difficulties with emotion processing and regulation. Lower activation in various emotion processing and regulation regions are thought to underlie these difficulties. In this thesis we questioned whether these difficulties are already present in groups with increased risk for developing psychosis. For this purpose, we examined functional and structural neural correlates that are related to emotion processing and regulation in individuals with increased risk for developing psychosis.

The results showed that difficulties with identifying and verbalising emotions were associated with the risk for developing psychosis. Lower activation in, amongst others, an emotion attention system, including the amygdale and occipital cortex, is possibly underlying these difficulties. Furthermore, the results revealed that individuals with an ultra-high risk for developing psychosis had lower activation in the prefrontal cortex during emotion regulation. This lower activation pattern was not found in individuals with a slightly increased risk for developing psychosis. These results indicate that specifically the ultra-high risk group might have a lower neural capacity to regulate emotions.

To conclude, difficulties in emotion processing and regulation do not seem to be solely disease-related, but may be part and parcel of the vulnerability for psychosis. Further research is necessary to examine whether the lower activation underlying these difficulties may predict the transition toward psychosis.