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The neural mechanisms of social reward in early psychosis

Fett, A-K., Mouchlianitis, E., Gromann, P. M. , Vanes, L., Shergill, S. S. & Krabbendam, L. (2019). The neural mechanisms of social reward in early psychosis. Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience, doi: 10.1093/scan/nsz058


In chronic psychosis, reduced trust is associated with a neural insensitivity to social reward and reduced theory of mind (ToM). Here we investigate whether these mechanisms could underlie emerging social impairments in early psychosis. Twenty-two participants with early psychosis and 25 controls (male, 13–19 years) participated in two interactive trust games against a cooperative and unfair partner. Region of interest neuroimaging analyses included right caudate, medial pre-frontal cortex (mPFC) and right temporo-parietal junction (rTPJ), involved in reward and ToM processing. Both groups showed similar levels of trust (i.e. investments). However, individuals with psychosis failed to activate the caudate differentially in response to cooperation and unfairness while making decisions to trust. During cooperative returns patients showed reduced and controls increased caudate activation. Patients demonstrated greater rTPJ activation than controls, possibly pointing towards compensatory mechanisms. Effects were associated with WASI vocabulary scores. No group differences emerged in mPFC activation. Early psychosis is associated with an aberrant neural sensitivity to social reward. This could foster reduced social motivation and social isolation. Absent behavioural differences in early, relative to chronic psychosis could indicate that trust is achieved through increased compensatory demand on ToM.

Publication Type: Article
Additional Information: © The Author(s) 2019. Published by Oxford University Press. This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution NonCommercial-NoDerivs licence (, which permits non-commercial reproduction and distribution of the work, in any medium, provided the original work is not altered or transformed in any way, and that the work properly cited. For commercial re-use, please contact
Publisher Keywords: fMRI, neuroeconomics, early psychosis, social cognition, trust, adolescence
Subjects: R Medicine > RC Internal medicine > RC0321 Neuroscience. Biological psychiatry. Neuropsychiatry
Departments: School of Health & Psychological Sciences > Psychology
[img] Text - Accepted Version
This document is not freely accessible due to copyright restrictions.
Available under License Creative Commons Attribution Non-commercial No Derivatives.



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