People who find social situations difficult tend to have similar brain responses to those with schizophrenia or autism, a new study has found.
Published in Psychiatry Research: Neuroimaging, Swinburne University researchers found the areas of the brain that show increased response when exposed to unexpected speech sounds or “phonemes” are associated with the processing of social information and linked with spectrum conditions such as autism or schizophrenia.
“This suggests that for people who find social situations difficult, their brain may be processing social information inefficiently,” said lead researcher and Postdoctoral Research Fellow Dr Talitha Ford.
“Autism and schizophrenia are multi-dimensional and spectrum conditions, which means they have varying degrees of many different symptoms, so much so, these symptoms present as non-clinical traits in the general population.”
Dr Ford said key features of both conditions are interpersonal and social difficulties, and different brain responses to changes in the environment.
She added that studying the brain responses associated with behaviours related to clinical conditions, such as autism and schizophrenia, would help scientists understand the processes that drive these behaviours.
Dr Ford hopes to further investigate the relationship between social cognition and brain response through the use of different neuroimaging techniques and measures of social skills.