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Schizophrenia Research and Treatment
Volume 2012, Article ID 920485, 12 pages
Review Article

Schizophrenia as a Disorder of Social Communication

Laboratory of Neuroscience, Department of Psychiatry VA Boston Healthcare System, Harvard Medical School, Psychiatry 116A, 940 Belmont Street, Brockton, MA 02301, USA

Received 20 December 2011; Revised 23 February 2012; Accepted 21 March 2012

Academic Editor: Margaret A. Niznikiewicz

Copyright © 2012 Cynthia Gayle Wible. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


Evidence is reviewed for the existence of a core system for moment-to-moment social communication that is based on the perception of dynamic gestures and other social perceptual processes in the temporal-parietal occipital junction (TPJ), including the posterior superior temporal sulcus (PSTS) and surrounding regions. Overactivation of these regions may produce the schizophrenic syndrome. The TPJ plays a key role in the perception and production of dynamic social, emotional, and attentional gestures for the self and others. These include dynamic gestures of the body, face, and eyes as well as audiovisual speech and prosody. Many negative symptoms are characterized by deficits in responding within these domains. Several properties of this system have been discovered through single neuron recording, brain stimulation, neuroimaging, and the study of neurological impairment. These properties map onto the schizophrenic syndrome. The representation of dynamic gestures is multimodal (auditory, visual, and tactile), matching the predominant hallucinatory categories in schizophrenia. Inherent in the perceptual signal of gesture representation is a computation of intention, agency, and anticipation or expectancy (for the self and others). The neurons are also tuned or biased to rapidly detect threat-related emotions. I review preliminary evidence that overactivation of this system can result in schizophrenia.