Neural simulation mechanisms and social-emotional function in schizophrenia

Cora E. Mukerji, Sarah Hope Lincoln, Laura Tully, David Dodell-Feder, Christine I. Hooker

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Impairment in simulation, i.e., the generation of internal representations of experiences, may contribute to social dysfunction in schizophrenia spectrum disorders (SZ). Using a novel fMRI task, we identified neural representations generated during simulation of sensorimotor experiences and evaluated their associations with socioemotional function in 19 individuals with SZ and 24 psychiatrically-healthy controls (HC). Participants watched videos depicting a painful sensorimotor experience in the hand or foot of another person and were then asked to imagine how unpleasant it would be to undergo that experience themselves, eliciting simulation. A localizer task identified regions-of-interest (ROIs) within each participant's sensorimotor cortices (SC) recruited by firsthand sensory experiences in hands and feet. Simulation engaged these ROIs in HC and SZ. Simulation-related activation in ROIs did not differ between groups but was associated with participants’ social function. Findings indicate that simulation elicits specific neural representations within the SC and the strength of these representations might be linked to social function.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)34-42
Number of pages9
JournalPsychiatry Research - Neuroimaging
StatePublished - Jan 30 2018


  • Empathy
  • fMRI
  • Mentalizing
  • Mirror neurons
  • Social cognition

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience (miscellaneous)
  • Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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