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Understanding emotion processing in schizophrenia. Evidence from behavior, neuroimaging and imaging genetics

21 September 2011

PhD ceremony: Ms. M. Swart, 11.00 uur, Aula Academiegebouw, Broerstraat 5, Groningen

Dissertation: Understanding emotion processing in schizophrenia. Evidence from behavior, neuroimaging and imaging genetics

Promotor(s): prof. A. Aleman and prof. D. Wiersma

Faculty: Medical Sciences


Emotional deficits are one of the core features of schizophrenia. Performance on emotional tasks is related amongst others to social and professional functioning. The aim of this thesis was to get a better understanding of emotion processing in schizophrenia and its underlying neural mechanisms. Therefore we investigated various emotional processes in patients with schizophrenia and non-psychotic first-degree relatives as they partly share the genetic vulnerability to develop a psychosis. We also investigated if a certain variant of the COMT gene (COMTVal158Met) influences emotion processing and its underlying neural mechanisms. We demonstrated that during reappraising negative events, patients showed decreased brain activation in areas important for emotion regulation. Also, patients had less connectivity between brain structures during learning and associating emotional pictures and words. This is consistent with the reported difficulties in regulating their emotions. Relatives reported less difficulties in emotion regulation than patients, but more than healthy control subjects. With regard to the COMT gene, individuals with the Met allele reported increased difficulties in regulating emotions. Additionally, they showed decreased brain activation in an area important for emotional awareness during valence evaluation of words. Finally, emotion regulation seems to be taken into account for treatment. In addition, it should be investigated whether individuals at high-risk might benefit from training in emotion regulation. 


Last modified:15 September 2017 3.41 p.m.

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