The social cognitive and neural mechanisms that underlie social functioning in individuals with schizophrenia – a review

Imke Lemmers-Jansen, Eva Velthorst, Anne Kathrin Fett

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


In many individuals with a diagnosis of schizophrenia social functioning is impaired across the lifespan. Social cognition has emerged as one of the possible factors that may contribute to these challenges. Neuroimaging research can give further insights into the underlying mechanisms of social (cognitive) difficulties. This review summarises the evidence on the associations between social cognition in the domains of theory of mind and emotion perception and processing, and individuals’ social functioning and social skills, as well as associated neural mechanisms. Eighteen behavioural studies were conducted since the last major review and meta-analysis in the field (inclusion between 7/2017 and 1/2022). No major review has investigated the link between the neural mechanisms of social cognition and their association with social functioning in schizophrenia. Fourteen relevant studies were included (from 1/2000 to 1/2022). The findings of the behavioural studies showed that associations with social outcomes were slightly stronger for theory of mind than for emotion perception and processing. Moreover, performance in both social cognitive domains was more strongly associated with performance on social skill measures than questionnaire-based assessment of social functioning in the community. Studies on the underlying neural substrate of these associations presented mixed findings. In general, higher activation in various regions of the social brain was associated with better social functioning. The available evidence suggests some shared regions that might underlie the social cognition-social outcome link between different domains. However, due to the heterogeneity in approaches and findings, the current knowledge base will need to be expanded before firm conclusions can be drawn.

Original languageEnglish
Article number327
JournalTranslational Psychiatry
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 2023
Externally publishedYes


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