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Mapping Depression in Schizophrenia: A Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging Study

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Original languageEnglish
JournalSchizophrenia Bulletin
Publication statusPublished - 27 Dec 2015


King's Authors


Depressive symptoms are common in schizophrenia, often left untreated, and associated with a high relapse rate, suicidal ideation, increased mortality, reduced social adjustment and poor quality of life. The neural mechanisms underlying depression in psychosis are poorly understood. Given reports of altered brain response to negative facial affect in depressive disorders, we examined brain response to emotive facial expressions in relation to levels of depression in people with psychosis. Seventy outpatients (final N = 63) and 20 healthy participants underwent functional magnetic resonance imaging during an implicit affect processing task involving presentation of facial expressions of fear, anger, happiness as well as neutral expressions and a (no face) control condition. All patients completed Beck Depression Inventory (BDI-II) and had their symptoms assessed on the Positive and Negative Syndrome Scale (PANSS). In patients, depression (BDI-II) scores associated positively with activation of the left thalamus, extending to the putamen-globus pallidus, insula, inferior-middle frontal and para-post-pre-central gyri during fearful expressions. Furthermore, patients with moderate-to-severe depression had significantly higher activity in these brain regions during fearful expressions relative to patients with no, minimal, or mild depression and healthy participants. The study provides first evidence of enhanced brain response to fearful facial expressions, which signal an uncertain source of threat in the environment, in patients with psychosis and a high level of self-reported depression.

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