Chronic exposure to adverse interpersonal environment in schizophrenia is associated with vulnerability to relapse. The construct of expressed emotion (EE) measures the quality of interpersonal environment, of which criticism is a main component. To use functional magnetic resonance imaging and to investigate the neural basis of vulnerability of schizophrenic patients to EE, the effects of critical comments on brain mechanisms in 11 patients with schizophrenia were examined, comparing evoked responses to familiar (key relative) and unfamiliar (matched stranger) critical and neutral commentary. High EE stimuli evoked enhanced activation of brain regions concerned with the processing of aversive social information. Activations in the right BA44, rostral anterior cingulate, middle superior frontal gyrus, bilateral middle frontal gyrus, left temporal pole, left inferior frontal gyrus, and left insula were significantly modulated to familiar criticism. Such a pattern of neural response may represent a putative neural network responsible for mediating High EE in schizophrenia.
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