Medical Research Council - London Institute of Medical Sciences

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Mental Health Week Mind Reading
20 August 2013

Mind Reading

Being able to intuit what others think or understand, called Theory of Mind, is fundamental to human social interaction. People with schizophrenia and autism don’t always find this easy. Here, researchers studied schizotypy patients (people who don’t have schizophrenia but have a high risk of suffering a psychotic episode) using functional magnetic resonance imaging, a scanning technique that employs magnetic fields to highlight changes in brain activity. Blue lines on the far right show which brain slices were scanned while red on the bottom shows differences between patient and control groups. While doing Theory of Mind activities patients’ brains showed activity across more areas (yellow) than controls (green) even though the corresponding psychological tests were normal. The results suggest schizotypy patients have some way to compensate for Theory of Mind defects. The finding is intriguing since it is conspicuously absent in people who suffer from schizophrenia.

Written by Julie Webb

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