Déficits de cognition sociale et leurs corrélats neuronaux chez les patients atteints de schizophrénie avec ou sans comorbidité du trouble d'anxiété sociale et chez leurs apparentés de premier degré

Chercheurs boursiers - Junior 1 | Concours 2012-2013

Amélie Achim

Centre de recherche Université Laval Robert-Giffard (CRULRG)


Domaine : Neurosciences, santé mentale et toxicomanies

Schizophrenia is a psychotic disorder characterized by cognitive, affective and behavioural symptoms such as delusions, hallucinations, disorganized behaviour, social withdrawal and cognitive deficits. A striking feature of schizophrenia is that people affected by the disorder are markedly compromised in their social competence, leading to profound academic, occupational and social functioning impairment. Current evidence suggests that it is not merely symptom severity that accounts for social impairments in schizophrenia. Instead, poor social competence seems to depend on patient¿s compromised ability to accurately appreciate the mental life of others in terms of their thoughts, intentions or emotions, i.e. on social cognition disturbances.
Adequate social cognition judgments are multi-determined, i.e. they require the integration of numerous neurocognitive and social cognitive processes, and it is not yet clear where in the social information processing chain the deficits occur in schizophrenia patients. My research program aims to better characterize the pathways from neuropathology to social functioning impairments in schizophrenia, with a particular focus on social cognition, which is recognized to stand at the core of the pathway.
I previously developed a social cognition test battery to decipher distinct lower level social cognition processing impairments and higher order social cognition deficits in schizophrenia. Building on this work, my research program now focuses on two main goals: 1) Determine whether distinct patterns of social cognition deficits exist in schizophrenia patients with versus without a comorbid social anxiety disorder; and 2) Link these processes to the causes (ex. genetic, neurobiological) and consequences (ex. impaired social functioning, symptoms) of the illness.
This research program based on neurocognitive testing and functional brain imaging should lead to a better understanding of the specific neurocognitive processes associated with social cognition disturbances in schizophrenia. This is essential for the design of more adapted treatments and improved functional outcomes.