Schizophrenia: when experience doesn't help social interaction

Schizophrenia is a mental illness that seriously affects social interaction. Recent studies have shown that people with schizophrenia have difficulty in interpreting others' intentions. One of the causes has just been identified by researchers at the Centre de Recherches Cerveau et Cognition (France) and the Centre de Neuroscience Cognitive de Lyon (France). They showed that schizophrenic patients use past experience wrongly when trying to anticipate the intentions of others. These results are published in the online version of the journal Brain.

When someone gets up from their seat on the bus, they may want to offer it to you or get out at the next stop. Identifying the intentions of others is essential when living in a community. In a previous paper, the same team of researchers proposed a new paradigm to explain how this is achieved. They believe this ability is based on the use of two types of information. The first, obtained by observing the movements of others, is visual. But a second type of message is also necessary: a priori information, which comes from our knowledge and past experience and is stored in our brains. Without it, it is difficult to interpret sensory information, which is often fragmented.

The researchers hypothesized that these two types of elements are misused by , which would explain why they have trouble recognizing the intentions of others. They tested patients with various symptoms of : negative symptoms (loss of interest, ), positive symptoms (, ) or disruptive ones (incoherent speech, jumping from one subject to the other). Patients first watched several videos showing actors manipulating objects with different intentions. Some of the videos were played a greater number of times, so as to manipulate a priori information. The patients then watched a cut version of the same video sequences. This allowed researchers to control the amount of available to the patients, who were asked to guess the intentions of the actors from the truncated scenes.

The scientists found that use a priori information poorly. Those with negative symptoms make little use of data from experience as though they had no expectations about the intentions of others. In contrast, those with positive or disruptive symptoms rely too heavily on a priori information to the detriment of visual information. Their sensorial perception does not prompt them to question their beliefs or preconceptions. In all cases, an imbalance in the interaction between visual information and a priori information leads to misinterpreting the intentions of others.

These results could form the basis of new cognitive therapy strategies that would help patients to improve their ability to use their past experience and reduce their difficulty in recognizing the intentions of others, a symptom that medication cannot treat. In addition, this paradigm could also be valid for autism, a condition with strong similarities to the negative symptoms of schizophrenia.

More information: Chambon V, Pacherie E, Barbalat G, Jacquet P, Franck N, and Farrer C. Mentalizing Under Influence: Abnormal Dependence on Prior Expectations in Patients with Schizophrenia. Brain, online on 28 November 2011.

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

L-lysine may help schizophrenia sufferers cope

Apr 18, 2011

Schizophrenia is a serious mental disorder that currently affects about one in every 200 people. Most patients find some relief from their symptoms by treatment with antipsychotics, however they may still suffer from cognitive ...

Recommended for you

Tackling neurotransmission precision

25 minutes ago

Behind all motor, sensory and memory functions, calcium ions are in the brain, making those functions possible. Yet neuroscientists do not entirely understand how fast calcium ions reach their targets inside ...

What makes kids generous? Neuroscience has some answers

25 minutes ago

It's no secret that people are judgmental, and young children are no exception. When children witness "good" or "bad" behavior, their brains show an immediate emotional response. But, according to a study ...

User comments

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

Burnerjack
1 / 5 (2) Dec 27, 2011
I used to know someone with schizophrenia. Sure, she had problems, but she really was good people. "Baddaboom!"
Callippo
1 / 5 (2) Dec 27, 2011
It's interesting, from perspective of the rest of society I'm may appear like schizophrenic with some obstinate idea, whereas the rest of society adheres to its view of reality like schizophrenic personality too from my perspective. The social interaction doesn't help the experience of crowd, until most of its members are convinced about their truth. Apparently it's just the matter of scale which distinguishes the inter-subjective opinion from this subjective one. IMO this mental disorder could correspond the cases of Siamese twins twins at the brain level. The schizophrenics exhibit opinion of crowds in this connection, as they're applying inter-subjective opinion for subjective decisions, like if they would have more separate brains inside of their head instead of single one. The occasional hearing of secret "voices" or personality splitting disorder supports this view.
Sinister1811
2.3 / 5 (3) Dec 27, 2011
I used to know someone with schizophrenia. Sure, she had problems, but she really was good people. "Baddaboom!"


Did you even read the article, or just came to troll? Your confusion between Dissociative Identity Disorder and Schizophrenia is further suggestive of this.
Cave_Man
1 / 5 (1) Dec 27, 2011
I wish there was more we could all do to ease the countless forms of suffering on our planet. A lot needs to happen before we can call ourselves advanced.

The term crazy person should be reneged or changed to whatever term is more accurate on a symptomatic diagnosis.

Religious quackery aside I think belief in a power greater than yourself helps calm your mind overall (i think of it as the universe or more correctly the universe as a life form, which is hard to do without anthropomorphizing a little bit)

It can pose difficult questions but it adds value beyond what we can even measure or consider value.

We die, that's a fact, even if we didn't the universe would eventually come to some conclusion that causes us to "die".
Ultimate rest and stillness is exactly as beautiful and awe inspiring as the vast cosmic structures like nebulae and galaxies.

I hope anyone out there trying to help someone with a mental illness reads this and it helps them stay strong and compassionate.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.