Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Terry Gilliam Talks About The Message Of Zero Theorem: "Wake Up!"

I always look forward to a new Terry Gilliam film, and this new one sounds very cool. The Zero Theorem will be in U.S. theaters this Friday.

In this interview posted at Space io9,  Gilliam talks about the new film, films that shaped him, and what he things about 12 Monkeys becoming a television series, among other topics.

Terry Gilliam Talks About The Message Of Zero Theorem: "Wake Up!"


Mika McKinnon

We caught up with Terry Gilliam recently to talk about his new film, Zero Theorem, a one size fits all, full gate, semi-vinyl motion picture on searching for the meaning in the face of impotence. He also told us which films left shrapnel in his soul, and why you should be fucking honest and cut the end off your story.

I was braced to forcefully interject questions in a mob of loud, rude journalists, but instead we were so dazed in our pre-coffee state that Gilliam teased that our gathering was a pajama party without the pajamas, all of us sleepy, quiet, and far too polite. He waded into the scrum of journalists with good humour, poking fun at himself, the world around him, and all of us huddled indoors so early on a Saturday morning while everyone else was outside gawking at Dragon Con's costume parade. We in offered him rambling, unfocused questions that have been paraphrased for clarity in this transcription, while keeping his sharply clever responses intact verbatim.

What is Zero Theorem about?
I never define depression, clinical or otherwise. It's the basis of most life. It seems to be the modern world: we all are depressed.

In a sense, [the movie is about] a guy who felt if only he had meaning for his life, it'd be okay. He's so busy waiting for someone to tell him rather than finding it himself or living it. I find the character [of Qohen] interesting because he's been so damaged by life in advance of the time we get to know him. To me, the real heart [of the movie] was him trying to reclaim his humanity, his ability to care, to love, and actually get outside of himself.

The world around it is my invention. That's just fun; it's a beautiful place.

The most important decision to me, and the most dooming thing, is when Bainsley says "Come away with me," and he can't do it! And yet, even after that the boy brings some paternal instinct out. He cares about him. And even that's taken away. Impotence is the heart of it.

Those of us who pay attention to the world [we live in], who read the news, feel we can do something about it. Then you realize how impotent you are to change things. And that's the sad thing. I talk about all these other things, but that's the heart of [the movie]. I created the world around him, but that's not really the movie, that's the stuff around it.

Some people get it immediately: some people identify or feel something for Qohen, understand where he is. Other people are just confused by it. [When looking at ratings for the film], fives are great and zeros are great, the middle is very vague and I like that because I know [they're] experiencing something. That's all I've tried to do — leave bits of shrapnel in them like I've had bits of shrapnel left in me from other films. We entertain as best we can, but we also try to reach people.

What is it about the meeting of reality and fantasy that fascinates you, and how does it play out in Zero Theorem?

Reality and fantasy — we need both of those to survive. If we don't have fantasy and dreams and all of those things, what's the point of carrying on? You need to watch out for reality because a buses come when you cross the street; be careful!

All those things are necessary, and I find so often they're split into two different categories. "Oh, we're doing a fantasy film. Oh, we're doing a realistic film." I try to mix the two because I find the battle or the bounds between the two aspects is what makes life interesting.

I never thought necessarily that I do fantasy because I always thought I'm actually dealing l with reality, it just happens to be through the eyes of a cartoonist. I'm a cartoonist; that's what I am at heart. In cartoons, you take reality and deform it, you make it grotesque, you make it funny. You alter it, but it works because it's based upon reality. That's what I try to do.

Zero Theorem is really a kind of satirical version of the world we're living in. It's just a little aspect of the world that has to do with the connected world we live in, or those who chose not to be connected to that world.

[We were in] this beautiful Georgian house, all designed to be almost in the 18th century. It was quiet, it was peaceful. We'd been there for a few hours, and we opened the door and outside was light and noise! In Zero Theorem, it's the shock of the world if you allow yourself to disconnect, and to forget it's out there, how noisy it is, how busy it is, how invasive it is. I was playing with all those things and basically the fact that I've been intrigued for so long about trying to disconnect from the connected world.

Within the movie, why do people want to solve the Zero Theorem?

People do. It's why people want to understand the meaning of life, or in the case of Mancon, if you can prove that everything is nothing, that's really important information! That's what advertising feeds on. Advertising feeds on your incomplete life, your frustrations, your dreams are never fulfilled! The more incomplete you are, the more things we can get you to buy! It's just good business. I don't really know what Mancon's up to except, "Get a lot of information together, and then we can start controlling people."

It's an interesting thing: when we first started showing the film, people would call it a dystopia. I don't think it's a dystopia. I think it's the world that's out there in colourful clothes having a good time shopping! Com'on, let's go! There's only one miserable guy in the whole thing, everyone else is having a fine time out there in a utopia!

They thought it was about big government again, about power of the state, is what Mancon was. No, it's not about governments anymore, it's about corporations! That's why it's "Corporations Sans Frontières." Who's really running the world, folks? Wake up! The government is just doing the show. You think that living in a democracy means that we have control. It's a corporate world we're living in, folks! Lack of control. I love my iPhone!

The format of the film is unusual in size and with rounded corners. Why?

That's why we call it a one size fits all, full gate, semi-vinyl motion picture. (Please write that down!)

In my perverseness, we shot it [so] the proportions are 16:9, not 1.85:1, or 2.39:1. It's what you see on your television screen now, and so it's "one size fits all." I thought since people are going to watch it anyway on their phones and their iPads and all, I want them to see exactly the same thing as you see in the cinema. So that's it. No cropping when you get to the tv format or anything.

"Full gate" is because it is. What you see is the full gate in the camera, and it has the little rounded edges because that's what is! Within most films — all films — there's a safety area inside which how normally you see the whole film. We went for the whole thing, so you see the full gate. If there were hairs in the gate, you would see them. There are hairs in the gate, and a little funny scratch down one side! The last time people had seen that was in silent movies, because subsequently we don't show that. So, I thought that was more fun as well.

It's "vinyl" because [the movie is] analogue and shot on film. However, there were 216 digital effects shots, so I couldn't lie and say it was "full" vinyl. So, it's semi-vinyl.

It was interesting — the rounded corners [caused] huge problems because the producers and even some of the quality-control guys for the distributers were saying, "No, we won't accept this. This is wrong! It's rounded corners!" What happens in 16:9 is little black strips down the sides because we don't go full width. But how many times have you gone to the cinema and seen the side curtains pulled, and half the film on the side curtains? It doesn't matter!

But there were all these people who were frightened by this new idea, and were resisting it! So I had to write a letter saying, "This is my creative choice. It was a creative decision, and blah blah blah." [Now the film is released], no one has ever complained, but you had to go through this gauntlet of people who are hired to make sure that no one complains!

Which films have left bits of shrapnel in you?

I remember as a kid, Thief of Bagdad, the great Korda and Powell film, the scene where the kid is in the big spiderweb and the spider is coming out... That I used to wake up in the middle of the night trapped in that spiderweb, all my bedclothes wrapped around me, strangling me. That's a kind of shrapnel.

The one that sort of woke me up to the power of movie-making and ideas is Paths of Glory. I'd never seen such injustice on the big film. It was the first time I was aware of the camera, the tracking shots shooting the trenches. It woke me up.

That's the kind of thing I'm talking about: things that stick with me, and inform the way I see the world.

There was a lawyer who saw Brazil. He didn't know what happened. He went back to his office, and locked himself in for three days. There is this publicist from Universal. She said when she saw the film, she went back home, and was taking a shower, and just started weeping and couldn't stop. Dave Crosby, of Crosby, Stills, and Nash, he had been in an accident the year before, and his wife died. He couldn't come to terms with it. He saw The Fisher King, and like Robin [Williams], at the end there's a catharsis, and said he could live again. Now, that's interesting, when a film does that for someone. There's a woman who saw the film lived in New York, and afterwards, walked home 20 blocks, then realized she'd walked 20 blocks in the wrong direction.

That's what so many films have done for me, and that's what I am trying to do. When that works, you feel you pulled something off here that's worth it. Hopefully it's attitudes or ideas or views of the world that are different than the straight, mainstream road.

What have you watched recently that you really like?

Not much.

If Brazil, Twelve Monkeys, and Zero Theorem are a triptych of dystopia, are you finished exploring that type of world?

I'm not the one that said that!

I don't even think I'm dealing with dystopias. It's just versions of what I see the world is now. Brazil was about then; it just happens to be that now is even more like Brazil than the world was then! I do take full responsibility for the creation of Homeland Security.

[Zero Theorem] is really about now. Because the film takes place almost entirely inside this church, my only moment to deal with what I thought was now was out on the streets the few times we get out there. Just the overload of images and stuff is out there! It's my chance to nail advertisers. We turn Occupy Wall Street into Occupy Mall Street: Shoppers of the world unite! That's the side I get to be more satirical, then inside is this other story that's hopefully interesting.

How do you feel Twelve Monkeys will translate into a television series?

I no idea! I don't have a fucking clue! No one even contacted me. My producer never even contacted me to say we're going to do this. I never heard anything other than what I read in the press. But I do think Jeffrey — Brad Pitt's character — being a woman is such a major breakthrough that I think that's why it's going to work.

...I have no idea. What they've got is basically a time-travel movie. It won't have much to do with the film. But my ex-agent was quite impressed by the lack of decency or politeness on the part of those who are going to make money off it.

How do you interpret Chrétien de Troyes' Perceval myth, the basis of The Fisher King?

The chief thing with Perceval is that here is this young, bright guy. He actually gets to where he's supposed to go, but doesn't ask the right question. He then spends the rest of his life trying to get to where he already had got to. It's asking questions rather than accepting things. In Perceval's case, he's polite. That's his great sin: he's polite and doesn't ask the right question! Don't be polite!

Right now, we live in a world where everyone is terrified of offending. Fuck that! Offence is important, folks! I mean, if we'd have behaved like that, there wouldn't have been Monty Python. We went out of our way to offend and to shock people. It's not to offend in a cheap way. Don't do cheap racial jokes or ethnic jokes. Some are really funny, but just too many are just too easy. But a good one? Wow, that's good! It's like when we were in college, we did practical jokes. The joker had to put more effort in than what the jokee had to go through. It's about that, and trying to get people to think.

That's all I'm really saying. Some of that is shocking them, saying rude things. When my daughter says, "That's rude!" [I say,] "I am? Am I causing harm, or am I doing or saying something someone might react to and start thinking about things?" I think that's it. I'm don't know if that's exactly the way Chrétien de Troyes meant his Perceval, but that's my translation!

But I do think we're frightened of saying things: it might be the wrong thing and cause offence. Enough people aren't being honest. They're not speaking honestly. They're speaking with all sorts of self-censorship going on. Writers will be self-censoring before it even gets to studio executives, because they know a film won't get through that gauntlet. Because they want to get their films made, they censor it.

When I first read Richard [LaGravenese]'s script [for The Fisher King], I thought it was fantastic, except there were certain elements in there that I just didn't buy. They were stupid. I started talking to him, and he said well, he's under pressure from producers to do these things so it's more likely the film gets financed. And I said, "Rich, let me see your first script." We went basically from that because it was there, it was pure, it was honest.

To bring Perceval into the Zero Theorem, the ending of Zero Theorem was not in the script. There were three scenes that follow that moment. The ending that was in the script was a crap Hollywood ending. It just violated the world we created, but it was there because obviously the producers thought we'd get it funded more easily. Now, when I cut the film together, I just couldn't stand that. I just [went] chop, chop, chop off, and left it where it was. Pat Rushin, who wrote it, said, "Thank you for that."

Again, it's how you want to succeed, you want to achieve and get your work done, and you make these little compromises all the way. By the end, you've violated what you set out to do. It's a very hard balance, how to play this game and get films made because they're expensive. With most of the work, it's is self-censorship by the writer is where the problem begins. I wish... I don't know how to get around it, frankly, besides do what we did: film a happy ending, but cut it off.

The Zero Theorem will be in U.S. theaters this Friday.

Mindfulness Protects Adults' Health from the Impacts of Childhood Adversity

A recently developed model (late 1990s) for assessing early childhood experience as it relates to adult physical and mental health is the Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) assessment (Felitti, et al., 1998; get your score here). The ACE scale identifies ten forms of adverse childhood experience (occurring before the age of 18): (1) verbal and emotional abuse, (2) physical abuse, (3) sexual abuse, (4) emotional neglect, (5) physical neglect, (6) battered parent (originally included as “battered mother”), (7) household substance abuse, (8) household psychological distress, (9) parental separation or divorce, and (10) criminal household member(s) (Dong, et al., 2003). The more ACEs that have been experienced, the greater the risk for later life health issues (Weiss & Wagner, 1998), including heart disease (Dong, et al., 2004), obesity (Williamson, et al., 2002), cancer (Brown, et al., 2010), drug use (Dube, et al., 2003), suicide risk (Dube, et al., 2001), smoking (Anda, et al., 1999), and psychological distress (Anda, et al., 2007; Chapman, et al., 2004; Chapman, et al., 2007; Edwards, et al., 2003), among many others (Felitti, et al., 1998, Felitti, 2002).

None of this deals with the intense mental distress (depression, anxiety, PTSD, psychosis) than can result from ACEs.

The new study below shows that the impact of ACEs can be mitigated by mindfulness meditation.  

1. Felitti, V.J., Anda, R.F., Nordenberg, D., Williamson, D.F., Spitz, A.M., Edwards, V., Koss, M.P. & Marks, J.S. (1998, May). Relationship of childhood abuse and household dysfunction to many of the leading causes of death in adults. The Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) Study. American Journal of Preventive Medicine; 14(4):245-58.
2. Maxia Dong, M., Anda, R.E., Dube, S.R., Giles, W.H., and Felitti, V.J. (2003). The relationship of exposure to childhood sexual abuse to other forms of abuse, neglect, and household dysfunction during childhood. Child Abuse & Neglect; 27: 625–639.
3. Weiss JS, Wagner SH. (1998). What explains the negative consequences of adverse childhood experiences on adult health? Insights from cognitive and neuroscience research (editorial). American Journal of Preventive Medicine; 14:356-360.
4. Dong M, Giles WH, Felitti VJ, Dube, SR, Williams JE, Chapman DP, Anda RF. (2004). Insights into causal pathways for ischemic heart disease: Adverse Childhood Experiences Study. Circulation; 110:1761-1766.
5. Williamson DF, Thompson TJ, Anda RF, Dietz WH, Felitti VJ. (2002). Adult Body Weight, Obesity, and Self-Reported Abuse in Childhood. International Journal of Obesity; 26: 1075–1082.
6. Brown DW, Anda RA, Felitti VJ, Edwards VJ, Malarcher AM, Croft JB, Giles WH. (2010). Adverse childhood experiences are associated with the risk of lung cancer: a prospective cohort study. BMC Public Health; 10: 20-32.
7. Dube SR, Anda RF, Felitti VJ, Chapman DP, Giles WH. (2003). Childhood Abuse, Neglect, and Household Dysfunction and the Risk of Illicit Drug Use: The Adverse Childhood Experiences Study. Pediatrics; 111:564-572.
8. Dube SR, Anda RF, Felitti VJ, Chapman D, Williamson DF, Giles WH. (2001). Childhood abuse, household dysfunction and the risk of attempted suicide throughout the life span: Findings from the Adverse Childhood Experiences Study. Journal of the American Medical Association; 286:3089-3096.
9. Anda RF, Croft JB, Felitti VJ, Nordenberg D, Giles WH, Williamson DF, Giovino GA. (1999). Adverse childhood experiences and smoking during adolescence and adulthood. Journal of the American Medical Association; 282:1652-1658.
10. Felitti VJ. (2002). The relationship between adverse childhood experiences and adult health: Turning gold into lead. The Permanente Journal; 6:44-47.
Here, then, is the article (a summary press release of the original article, which is behind a paywall).

Mindfulness protects adults' health from the impacts of childhood adversity

Date: September 13, 2014
Source: Temple University
Adults who were abused or neglected as children are known to have poorer health, but adults who tend to focus on and accept their reactions to the present moment—or are mindful—report having better health, regardless of their childhood adversity, researchers report.
Adults who were abused or neglected as children are known to have poorer health, but adults who tend to focus on and accept their reactions to the present moment -- or are mindful -- report having better health, regardless of their childhood adversity. These findings, to be published in the October issue of Preventive Medicine, are based on the first study ever conducted to examine the relationship between childhood adversity, mindfulness, and health.

Led by Robert Whitaker, professor of public health and pediatrics at Temple University, the researchers surveyed 2,160 adults working in Head Start, the nation's largest federally-funded early childhood education program.

Survey respondents, who worked in 66 Pennsylvania Head Start programs, were asked if they experienced any of eight types of childhood adversity, such as being abused or having a parent with alcoholism or drug addiction. In addition, respondents were asked questions about their current health, as well their mindfulness, meaning their tendency in daily life to pay attention to what is happening in the moment and to be aware of and accepting of their thoughts and feelings.

Nearly one-fourth of those surveyed reported three or more types of adverse childhood experiences, and almost 30 percent reported having three or more stress-related health conditions like depression, headache, or back pain, noted the researchers. However, the risk of having multiple health conditions was nearly 50 percent lower among those with the highest level of mindfulness compared to those with the lowest. This was true even for those who had multiple types of childhood adversity.

Regardless of the amount of childhood adversity, those who were more mindful also reported significantly better health behaviors, like getting enough sleep, and better functioning, such as having fewer days per month when they felt poorly -- either mentally or physically, said Whitaker.

"Our results suggest that mindfulness may provide some resilience against the poor adult health outcomes that often result from childhood trauma," he said. "Mindfulness training may help adults, including those with a history of childhood trauma, to improve their own well-being and be more effective with children."

While many smaller studies have shown that learning mindfulness practices like meditation can improve psychological and physical symptoms such as depression and pain, more research is needed to see if interventions to increase mindfulness can improve the health and functioning of those who have had adverse childhood experiences, Whitaker said.

With nearly two-thirds of U.S. adults reporting one or more types of adverse childhood experiences, Whitaker noted that "mindfulness practices could be a promising way to reduce the high costs to our society that result from the trauma adults experienced during childhood."

The findings are a follow-up to the researchers' previous study which found that women working in Head Start programs reported higher than expected levels of physical and mental health problems. That study was published in 2013 in the journal Preventing Chronic Disease.

Story Source:
The above story is based on materials provided by Temple University. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.

Journal Reference:
Robert C. Whitaker, Tracy Dearth-Wesley, Rachel A. Gooze, Brandon D. Becker, Kathleen C. Gallagher, Bruce S. McEwen. (2014). Adverse childhood experiences, dispositional mindfulness, and adult health. Preventive Medicine; 67: 147 DOI: 10.1016/j.ypmed.2014.07.029

Kory Floyd, PhD - The Importance of Being Prosocial: Communication, Health & Well-Being

This invited talk by Kory Floyd, PhD (Arizona State University) deals with the topic of prosociality and its important to our health and well-being. Dr. Floyd is the author of many books, including Communicating Affection: Interpersonal Behavior and Social Context (2008), Biological Dimensions of Communication: Perspectives, Methods, and Research (2009, co-authored), and co-editor of Widening the Family Circle: New Research on Family Communication (2013).

Here is a bio-sketch from his Amazon page:
Kory Floyd is professor and associate director of the school of human communication at Arizona State University, where he is also on the doctoral faculties of nursing, social psychology, clinical psychology, and family studies. He received his PhD in communication from the University of Arizona, his MA in speech communication from the University of Washington, and his BA in English literature from Western Washington University. His research focuses on the communication of affection in personal relationships and on the interplay between interpersonal behavior, physiology, and health. He has authored or edited eight books and nearly 75 journal articles and book chapters in the areas of interpersonal communication, family communication, nonverbal communication, health, and physiology.

This talk was given as Stanford University's Center for Compassion And Altruism Research And Education (CCARE).

Kory Floyd, Ph.D. - The Importance of Being Prosocial: Communication, Health, and Well-Being

Published on Sep 9, 2014

Kory Floyd is professor of human communication at Arizona State University, where he is also on the doctoral faculties of nursing, clinical psychology, and social psychology. His research focuses on the communication of affection in personal relationships and its association with physical health and mental well-being. He has written 12 books and nearly 100 journal articles and book chapters on the topics of affection, nonverbal behavior, family communication, and psychophysiology. Dr. Floyd is currently editor-in-chief of Communication Monographs and is past editor of Journal of Family Communication. He received his PhD in human communication from the University of Arizona. He delivered a talk on "The Importance of Being Prosocial: Communication, Health, & Well-Being."

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Perspective Taking: Building a Neurocognitive Framework for Integrating the “Social” and the “Spatial”

This article is an editorial introduction to the Research Topic Perspective Taking: building a neurocognitive framework for integrating the “social” and the “spatial”. In part, this overview looks at some of the previous articles in this research topic (of which there are many) and partly it raises questions and directions for future research.

Several articles from the series are linked to below.

Full Citation: 
Hamilton AFC, Kessler K, and Creem-Regehr SH. (2014, Jun 11). Perspective taking: building a neurocognitive framework for integrating the “social” and the “spatial.” Frontiers in Human Neuroscience; 8:403. doi: 10.3389/fnhum.2014.00403

Perspective taking: building a neurocognitive framework for integrating the “social” and the “spatial”

Antonia F. de C. Hamilton [1], Klaus Kessler [2] and Sarah H. Creem-Regehr [3]
1. Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience, University College London, London, UK
2. Aston Brain Centre, School of Life and Health Sciences, Aston University, Birmingham, UK
3. Department of Psychology, University of Utah, Salt Lake City, UT, USA

From carrying a table to pointing at the moon, interacting with other people involves spatial awareness of one's own body and the other's body and viewpoint. In the past, social cognition has often focused on tasks like belief reasoning, which is abstracted away from spatial and bodily representations. There is also a strong tradition of work on spatial and object representation which does not consider social interactions. The 24 papers in this research topic represent the growing body of work which links the spatial and the social. The diversity of methods and approaches used here reveal that this is a vibrant and growing research area which can tell us more than the study of either topic in isolation.

Online mental transformations of spatial representations are often believed to rely on action simulation and other “embodied” processing and three papers in the current research topic provide new evidence for this process. Surtees and colleagues reveal that embodied egocentric transformations are used for visual as well as for spatial perspective taking, extending the generality of the embodied processing principle (Surtees et al., 2013). Braithwaite et al.'s contribution distinguishes between embodied and disembodied body-related hallucinations, showing that only the latter speeds up perspective taking (Braithwaite et al., 2013). Gardner and colleagues also highlight distinct processing routes towards perspective taking outcomes, where some individuals use embodied- while others use abstract (unembodied) calculation strategies (Gardner et al., 2013).

Several of the papers in this research topic have a focus on action systems in perspective taking. Creem-Regehr et al. analyze the literature on human judgments of other's affordances and how this relates to spatial perspective taking, concluding that these are complementary processes that work to inform understanding of another's behavior (Creem-Regehr et al., 2013). Maguinness et al. look at how observing another's action of lifting influences the discrimination of the weight of the objects lifted, and how this is modulated by age (Maguinness et al., 2013). Pezzulo et al. propose that that sensorimotor representations are recalibrated in social contexts to create shared action spaces serving joint action or more generally, social interaction (Pezzulo et al., 2013). Furlanetto et al. present a study examining the role of both gaze and action on perspective taking, finding the intriguing result that when gaze and action intention conflict, spontaneous perspective taking is increased (Furlanetto et al., 2013). Together, these papers suggest that perception, action and spatial processing all interact with and contribute to social cognition.

Direct interactions between spatial factors and social factors can be seen in a variety of domains, including emotional stimuli such as threat and pain. Takahashi et al. use virtual reality to show that potentially threatening objects are perceived as closer to the participant (Takahashi et al., 2013). Clements-Stephens et al. investigate the influence of the presence of an agent and the role of social skills on spatial perspective taking, finding a complex relationship among tasks, targets, and context (Clements-Stephens et al., 2013). Finally, the impact of perspective taking on observation of other's pain is examined by Canizales et al, finding both subjective evaluation and neural somatosensory responses are modulated by the perspective taken (Canizales et al., 2013).

The relevance of social and visuospatial perspective taking for successful communication is emphasized in five contributions in this research topic. Focusing on the integration of action- and spatial- perspective taking, Beveridge and Pickering propose that alignment of spatial perspectives may serve as a prerequisite for action language simulations (Beveridge and Pickering, 2013), in which language users adopt a particular action-perspective or frame-of-reference (FOR). Johannsen and De Ruiter show that priming of a relative FOR can dominate an a priori preference for an intrinsic FOR in communication, while communicative success is predicted by the amount to which interlocutors adapt to each other's strategies—whatever these are (Johannsen and Ruiter, 2013). De Boer and colleagues approach the question of communicative success from the angle of individual traits and report that motivational as well general-purpose cognitive abilities play a crucial role (De Boer et al., 2013). The flexibility of perspective taking in communication is further highlighted by Galati and Avraamides who show that people weigh multiple cues (including social ones) to consider the relative difficulty of perspective-taking for each partner, and adapt behavior to minimize collective effort (Galati and Avraamides, 2013). In this context cultural background could make a difference. Wu and colleagues report that Westerners and East-Asians differ in their strategies of controlling ego- vs. other-centred perspective taking outcomes but are similar in their immediate (egocentric) integration of communication context (Wu et al., 2013).

Developmental and neuroscientific approaches are also important in understanding perspective taking. New data from Hirai and colleagues shows that people with William syndrome find it hard to perform a level 2 visual perspective taking (VPT2) task, and this may be due to difficulties in spatial processing of body postures (Hirai et al., 2013). These data complement the review from Pearson et al. which shows that children with autism also find these VPT2 tasks hard (Pearson et al., 2013). Though Williams syndrome and autism are sometimes considered to have opposite effects on social cognition, here the intersection of spatial and social processing seems to be difficult for both populations. Moll et al. argue against the traditional view that VPT is simpler than cognitive perspective taking (theory of mind) and suggest that social coordination and communication occurs developmentally prior to full VPT abilities (Moll and Kadipasaoglu, 2013). This view contrasts with the paper from Wheatley and colleagues which suggests that in human evolution, brain systems for spatial processing have been repurposed for social cognition (Parkinson and Wheatley, 2013). Finally, Schurz and colleagues report a meta-analysis of fMRI data showing that perspective taking and theory of mind engage overlapping brain regions (Schurz et al., 2013). Together, these studies show clear links between spatial and social processing, and the question of which is “primary” may become an important debate in the future.

Finally, advances in our experimental data need to be interpreted in a solid theoretical framework. Several rival theories are available. Gross and Profitt make the claim that social connections can modulate participant's perception of space (Gross and Proffitt, 2013). Sun and Wang consider how both spatial and social problems can be conceptualized in terms of different frames of reference, and can be broken down to similar low-level components (Sun and Wang, 2014). May and Wendt evaluate theoretical accounts of perspective taking with a focus on two different tasks that require laterality judgments (May and Wendt, 2013). Limanowski and Blankenburg take a very different approach, providing an account of the experience of “self” in terms of the free energy principle that a brain functions to minimize surprise (Limanowski and Blankenburg, 2013).

Overall, the variety of papers in this research topic reflect the diversity and dynamism of the field. Recognition of the importance of studying spatial and social information processing in the same framework has come from many angles. Future studies can examine how these different types of task can scaffold each other and interact, possibly in an embodied fashion, to enable humans to cooperate and engage in a social space.

Conflict of Interest Statement

The authors declare that the research was conducted in the absence of any commercial or financial relationships that could be construed as a potential conflict of interest.


  • Beveridge, M. E. L., and Pickering, M. J. (2013). Perspective taking in language: integrating the spatial and action domains. Front. Hum. Neurosci. 7:577. doi: 10.3389/fnhum.2013.00577 Pubmed Abstract | Pubmed Full Text | CrossRef Full Text
  • Braithwaite, J. J., James, K., Dewe, H., Medford, N., Takahashi, C., and Kessler, K. (2013). Fractionating the unitary notion of dissociation: disembodied but not embodied dissociative experiences are associated with exocentric perspective-taking. Front. Hum. Neurosci. 7:719. doi: 10.3389/fnhum.2013.00719  Pubmed Abstract | Pubmed Full Text | CrossRef Full Text
  • Canizales, D. L., Voisin, J. I. A., Michon, P.-E., Roy, M.-A., and Jackson, P. L. (2013). The influence of visual perspective on the somatosensory steady-state response during pain observation. Front. Hum. Neurosci. 7:849. doi: 10.3389/fnhum.2013.00849 Pubmed Abstract | Pubmed Full Text | CrossRef Full Text
  • Clements-Stephens, A. M., Vasiljevic, K., Murray, A. J., and Shelton, A. L. (2013). The role of potential agents in making spatial perspective taking social. Front. Hum. Neurosci. 7:497. doi: 10.3389/fnhum.2013.00497 Pubmed Abstract | Pubmed Full Text | CrossRef Full Text
  • Creem-Regehr, S. H., Gagnon, K. T., Geuss, M. N., and Stefanucci, J. K. (2013). Relating spatial perspective taking to the perception of other's affordances: providing a foundation for predicting the future behavior of others. Front. Hum. Neurosci. 7:596. doi: 10.3389/fnhum.2013.00596 Pubmed Abstract | Pubmed Full Text | CrossRef Full Text
  • De Boer, M., Toni, I., and Willems, R. M. (2013). What drives successful verbal communication? Front. Hum. Neurosci. 7:622. doi: 10.3389/fnhum.2013.00622 Pubmed Abstract | Pubmed Full Text | CrossRef Full Text
  • Furlanetto, T., Cavallo, A., Manera, V., Tversky, B., and Becchio, C. (2013). Through your eyes: incongruence of gaze and action increases spontaneous perspective taking. Front. Hum. Neurosci. 7:455. doi: 10.3389/fnhum.2013.00455 Pubmed Abstract | Pubmed Full Text | CrossRef Full Text
  • Galati, A., and Avraamides, M. N. (2013). Flexible spatial perspective-taking: conversational partners weigh multiple cues in collaborative tasks. Front. Hum. Neurosci. 7:618. doi: 10.3389/fnhum.2013.00618 Pubmed Abstract | Pubmed Full Text | CrossRef Full Text
  • Gardner, M. R., Brazier, M., Edmonds, C. J., and Gronholm, P. C. (2013). Strategy modulates spatial perspective-taking: evidence for dissociable disembodied and embodied routes. Front. Hum. Neurosci. 7:457. doi: 10.3389/fnhum.2013.00457 Pubmed Abstract | Pubmed Full Text | CrossRef Full Text
  • Gross, E. B., and Proffitt, D. (2013). The economy of social resources and its influence on spatial perceptions. Front. Hum. Neurosci. 7:772. doi: 10.3389/fnhum.2013.00772 Pubmed Abstract | Pubmed Full Text | CrossRef Full Text
  • Hirai, M., Muramatsu, Y., Mizuno, S., Kurahashi, N., Kurahashi, H., and Nakamura, M. (2013). Developmental changes in mental rotation ability and visual perspective-taking in children and adults with Williams syndrome. Front. Hum. Neurosci. 7:856. doi: 10.3389/fnhum.2013.00856 Pubmed Abstract | Pubmed Full Text | CrossRef Full Text
  • Johannsen, K., and Ruiter, J. P. De. (2013). Reference frame selection in dialog: priming or preference? Front. Hum. Neurosci. 7:667. doi: 10.3389/fnhum.2013.00667 Pubmed Abstract | Pubmed Full Text | CrossRef Full Text
  • Limanowski, J., and Blankenburg, F. (2013). Minimal self-models and the free energy principle. Front. Hum. Neurosci. 7:547. doi: 10.3389/fnhum.2013.00547 Pubmed Abstract | Pubmed Full Text | CrossRef Full Text
  • Maguinness, C., Setti, A., Roudaia, E., and Kenny, R. A. (2013). Does that look heavy to you? Perceived weight judgment in lifting actions in younger and older adults. Front. Hum. Neurosci. 7:795. doi: 10.3389/fnhum.2013.00795 Pubmed Abstract | Pubmed Full Text | CrossRef Full Text
  • May, M., and Wendt, M. (2013). Visual perspective taking and laterality decisions: Problems and possible solutions. Front. Hum. Neurosci. 7:549. doi: 10.3389/fnhum.2013.00549 Pubmed Abstract | Pubmed Full Text | CrossRef Full Text
  • Moll, H., and Kadipasaoglu, D. (2013). The primacy of social over visual perspective-taking. Front. Hum. Neurosci. 7:558. doi: 10.3389/fnhum.2013.00558 Pubmed Abstract | Pubmed Full Text | CrossRef Full Text
  • Parkinson, C., and Wheatley, T. (2013). Old cortex, new contexts: re-purposing spatial perception for social cognition. Front. Hum. Neurosci. 7:645. doi: 10.3389/fnhum.2013.00645 Pubmed Abstract | Pubmed Full Text | CrossRef Full Text
  • Pearson, A., Ropar, D., and Hamilton, A. F. D. C. (2013). A review of visual perspective taking in autism spectrum disorder. Front. Hum. Neurosci. 7:652. doi: 10.3389/fnhum.2013.00652 Pubmed Abstract | Pubmed Full Text | CrossRef Full Text
  • Pezzulo, G., Iodice, P., Ferraina, S., and Kessler, K. (2013). Shared action spaces: a basis function framework for social re-calibration of sensorimotor representations supporting joint action. Front. Hum. Neurosci. 7:800. doi: 10.3389/fnhum.2013.00800 Pubmed Abstract | Pubmed Full Text | CrossRef Full Text
  • Schurz, M., Aichhorn, M., Martin, A., and Perner, J. (2013). Common brain areas engaged in false belief reasoning and visual perspective taking: a meta-analysis of functional brain imaging studies. Front. Hum. Neurosci. 7:712. doi: 10.3389/fnhum.2013.00712 Pubmed Abstract | Pubmed Full Text | CrossRef Full Text
  • Sun, Y., and Wang, H. (2014). Insight into others' minds: spatio-temporal representations by intrinsic frame of reference. Front. Hum. Neurosci. 8:58. doi: 10.3389/fnhum.2014.00058 Pubmed Abstract | Pubmed Full Text | CrossRef Full Text
  • Surtees, A., Apperly, I., and Samson, D. (2013). The use of embodied self-rotation for visual and spatial perspective-taking. Front. Hum. Neurosci. 7:698. doi: 10.3389/fnhum.2013.00698 Pubmed Abstract | Pubmed Full Text | CrossRef Full Text
  • Takahashi, K., Meilinger, T., Watanabe, K., and Bülthoff, H. H. (2013). Psychological influences on distance estimation in a virtual reality environment. Front. Hum. Neurosci. 7:580. doi: 10.3389/fnhum.2013.00580 Pubmed Abstract | Pubmed Full Text | CrossRef Full Text
  • Wu, S., Barr, D. J., Gann, T. M., and Keysar, B. (2013). How culture influences perspective taking: differences in correction, not integration. Front. Hum. Neurosci. 7:822. doi: 10.3389/fnhum.2013.00822 Pubmed Abstract | Pubmed Full Text | CrossRef Full Text

Here are several of the articles from this topic section, arranged by newest at the top (I think). There are two more pages worth of older articles here (scroll down).

Insight into others’ minds: spatio-temporal representations by intrinsic frame of reference

Yanlong Sun and Hongbin Wang

Hypothesis & TheoryRecent research has seen a growing interest in connections between domains of spatial and social cognition. Much evidence indicates that processes of representing space in distinct frames of reference (FOR) contribute to basic spatial abilities as ...
Published on 14 February 2014 | Front. Hum. Neurosci. doi: 10.3389/fnhum.2014.00058

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Developmental changes in mental rotation ability and visual perspective-taking in children and adults with Williams syndrome

Masahiro Hirai, Yukako Muramatsu, Seiji Mizuno, Naoko Kurahashi, Hirokazu Kurahashi and Miho Nakamura

Original ResearchWilliams syndrome (WS) is a genetic disorder caused by the partial deletion of chromosome 7. Individuals with WS have atypical cognitive abilities, such as hypersociability and compromised visuospatial cognition, although the mechanisms underlying ...
Published on 11 December 2013 | Front. Hum. Neurosci. doi: 10.3389/fnhum.2013.00856

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The influence of visual perspective on the somatosensory steady-state response during pain observation

Dora Linsey Canizales, Julien IA Voisin, Pierre-Emmanuel Michon, Marc-André Roy and Philip L. Jackson

Original ResearchThe observation and evaluation of other's pain activate part of the neuronal network involved in the actual experience of pain, including those regions subserving the sensori-discriminative dimension of pain. This was largely interpreted as ...
Published on 09 December 2013 | Front. Hum. Neurosci. doi: 10.3389/fnhum.2013.00849

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How culture influences perspective taking: differences in correction, not integration

Shali Wu, Dale J Barr, Timothy Matthew Gann and Boaz Keysar

Original ResearchIndividuals from East Asian (Chinese) backgrounds have been shown to exhibit greater sensitivity to a speaker's perspective than Western (US) participants when resolving referentially ambiguous expressions. We show that this cultural difference ...
Published on 02 December 2013 | Front. Hum. Neurosci. doi: 10.3389/fnhum.2013.00822

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Shared action spaces: a basis function framework for social re-calibration of sensorimotor representations supporting joint action

Giovanni Pezzulo, Pierpaolo Iodice, Stefano Ferraina and Klaus Kessler

Hypothesis & TheoryThe article explores the possibilities of formalizing and explaining the mechanisms that support spatial and social perspective alignment sustained over the duration of a social interaction. The basic proposed principle is that in social contexts the ...
Published on 26 November 2013 | Front. Hum. Neurosci. doi: 10.3389/fnhum.2013.00800

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Does that look heavy to you? Perceived weight judgment in lifting actions in younger and older adults

Corrina Maguinness, Annalisa Setti, Eugenie Roudaia and Rose Anne Kenny

Original ResearchWhen interpreting other people’s movements or actions, observers may not only rely on the visual cues available in the observed movement, but they may also be able to ‘put themselves in the other person’s shoes’ by engaging brain systems involved in ...
Published on 25 November 2013 | Front. Hum. Neurosci. doi: 10.3389/fnhum.2013.00795

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The economy of social resources and its influence on spatial perceptions

Elizabeth Blair Gross and Dennis Proffitt

ReviewSurvival for any organism, including people, is a matter if resource management. To ensure survival, people necessarily budget their resources. Our spatial perceptions contribute to resource budgeting by scaling the environment to our available ...
Published on 19 November 2013 | Front. Hum. Neurosci. doi: 10.3389/fnhum.2013.00772

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The use of embodied self-rotation for visual and spatial perspective-taking

Andrew David Ridley Surtees, Ian A Apperly and Dana Samson

Original ResearchPrevious research has shown that calculating if something is to someone’s left or right involves a simulative process recruiting representations of our own body in imagining ourselves in the position of the other person (Kessler & Rutherford, ...
Published on 05 November 2013 | Front. Hum. Neurosci. doi: 10.3389/fnhum.2013.00698

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Common brain areas engaged in false belief reasoning and visual perspective taking: a meta-analysis of functional brain imaging studies

Matthias Schurz, Markus Aichhorn, Anna Martin and Josef Perner

Original ResearchWe performed a quantitative meta-analysis of functional neuroimaging studies to identify brain areas which are commonly engaged in social and visuo-spatial perspective taking. Specifically, we compared brain activation found for visual-perspective ...
Published on 01 November 2013 | Front. Hum. Neurosci. doi: 10.3389/fnhum.2013.00712

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Fractionating the unitary notion of dissociation: disembodied but not embodied dissociative experiences are associated with exocentric perspective-taking

Jason Braithwaite, Kelly James, Hayley Dewe, Nick Medford, Chie Takahashi and Klaus Kessler

Original ResearchIt has been argued that hallucinations which appear to involve shifts in egocentric perspective (i.e., the out-of-body experience: OBE) reflect specific biases in exocentric perspective-taking processes. Via a newly devised perspective-taking task, ...
Published on 30 October 2013 | Front. Hum. Neurosci. doi: 10.3389/fnhum.2013.00719

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Reference frame selection in dialog: priming or preference?

Katrin Johannsen and Jan P. De Ruiter

Original ResearchWe investigate effects of priming and preference on frame of reference (FOR) selection in dialogue. In a first study, we determine FOR preferences for specific object configurations to establish a baseline. In a second study, we focus on the ...
Published on 16 October 2013 | Front. Hum. Neurosci. doi: 10.3389/fnhum.2013.00667

New Reseach on Schizophrenia - 5 Recent Studies

Presented below are five new studies on schizophrenia from the last week or two. The first three come from Science Daily, which posts press releases from researchers and journals about new studies. All three of these studiers are behind paywalls, and they cannot be accessed to assess their validity.

The last two articles are from Frontiers in Psychiatry: Schizophrenia and are open access articles.

I have added some comments to a few of these.

Schizophrenia not a single disease but multiple genetically distinct disorders

Date: September 15, 2014
Source: Washington University in St. Louis
Schizophrenia isn’t a single disease but a group of eight genetically distinct disorders, each with its own set of symptoms, research shows. The finding could be a first step toward improved diagnosis and treatment for the debilitating psychiatric illness.


Cloninger, the Wallace Renard Professor of Psychiatry and Genetics, and his colleagues matched precise DNA variations in people with and without schizophrenia to symptoms in individual patients. In all, the researchers analyzed nearly 700,000 sites within the genome where a single unit of DNA is changed, often referred to as a single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP). They looked at SNPs in 4,200 people with schizophrenia and 3,800 healthy controls, learning how individual genetic variations interacted with each other to produce the illness.

In some patients with hallucinations or delusions, for example, the researchers matched distinct genetic features to patients' symptoms, demonstrating that specific genetic variations interacted to create a 95 percent certainty of schizophrenia. In another group, they found that disorganized speech and behavior were specifically associated with a set of DNA variations that carried a 100 percent risk of schizophrenia.

"What we've done here, after a decade of frustration in the field of psychiatric genetics, is identify the way genes interact with each other, how the 'orchestra' is either harmonious and leads to health, or disorganized in ways that lead to distinct classes of schizophrenia," Cloninger said.
Although individual genes have only weak and inconsistent associations with schizophrenia, groups of interacting gene clusters create an extremely high and consistent risk of illness, on the order of 70 to 100 percent. That makes it almost impossible for people with those genetic variations to avoid the condition. In all, the researchers identified 42 clusters of genetic variations that dramatically increased the risk of schizophrenia.
Full Citation:
Javier Arnedo, Dragan M. Svrakic, Coral del Val, Rocío Romero-Zaliz, Helena Hernández-Cuervo, Ayman H. Fanous, Michele T. Pato, Carlos N. Pato, Gabriel A. de Erausquin, C. Robert Cloninger, Igor Zwir. Uncovering the Hidden Risk Architecture of the Schizophrenias: Confirmation in Three Independent Genome-Wide Association Studies. American Journal of Psychiatry, 2014; DOI: 10.1176/appi.ajp.2014.14040435

Of course, the article is behind a paywall.

I remain skeptical of these results. As has long been the case in studies of schizophrenia and its genetic origins, the researchers do not account for HOW those single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) get triggered in the first place. There is a LOT of research demonstrating powerful correlations between childhood abuse and neglect and epigenetic changes in the brain which can lea to schizophrenia and other psychoses.

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Is the pattern of brain folding a 'fingerprint' for schizophrenia?

Date: September 11, 2014
Source: Elsevier

Anyone who has seen pictures or models of the human brain is aware that the outside layer, or cortex, of the brain is folded in an intricate pattern of “hills”, called gyri, and “valleys”, called sulci. It turns out that the patterns of cortical folding are largely consistent across healthy humans, broadly speaking. However, disturbances in cortical folding patterns suggest deeper disturbances in brain structure and function.

Anyone who has seen pictures or models of the human brain is aware that the outside layer, or cortex, of the brain is folded in an intricate pattern of "hills," called gyri, and "valleys," called sulci.

It turns out that the patterns of cortical folding are largely consistent across healthy humans, broadly speaking. However, disturbances in cortical folding patterns suggest deeper disturbances in brain structure and function..

A new study published in the current issue of Biological Psychiatry suggests that schizophrenia is associated with reductions in the complexity of the cortical folding pattern that may reflect deficits in the structural connections between brain regions.

"The cortical folding pattern itself may not be so important, but the disturbances in connections between brain regions implicated by the changes in cortical folding could provide critical clues to deficits in the integrity of brain circuits that contribute to symptoms and functional impairment in schizophrenia," commented Dr. John Krystal, Editor of Biological Psychiatry.
Full Citation:
Pranav Nanda, Neeraj Tandon, Ian T. Mathew, Christoforos I. Giakoumatos, Hulegar A. Abhishekh, Brett A. Clementz, Godfrey D. Pearlson, John Sweeney, Carol A. Tamminga, Matcheri S. Keshavan. Local Gyrification Index in Probands with Psychotic Disorders and Their First-Degree Relatives. Biological Psychiatry, 2014; 76 (6): 447 DOI: 10.1016/j.biopsych.2013.11.018

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Brain development in schizophrenia strays from normal path

Date: September 15, 2014
Source: Elsevier

Schizophrenia is generally considered to be a disorder of brain development and it shares many risk factors, both genetic and environmental, with other neurodevelopmental disorders such as autism and intellectual disability. The normal path for brain development is determined by the combined effects of a complex network of genes and a wide range of environmental factors. However, longitudinal brain imaging studies in both healthy and patient populations are required in order to map the disturbances in brain structures as they emerge, researchers say.


A new study by an international, collaborative group of researchers has measured neurodevelopment in schizophrenia, by studying brain development during childhood and adolescence in people with and without this disorder. With access to new statistical approaches and long-term follow-up with participants, in some cases over more than a decade, the researchers were able to describe brain development patterns associated with schizophrenia.

"Specifically, this paper shows that parts of the brain's cortex develop differently in people with schizophrenia," said first author Dr. Aaron F. Alexander-Bloch, from the National Institute of Mental Health.

"The mapping of the path that the brain follows in deviating from normal development provides important clues to the underlying causes of the disorder," said Dr. John Krystal, Editor of Biological Psychiatry.

The findings were derived by investigating the trajectory of cortical thickness growth curves in 106 patients with childhood-onset schizophrenia and a comparison group of 102 healthy volunteers.

Each participant, ranging from 7-32 years of age, had repeated imaging scans over the course of several years. Then, using over 80,000 vertices across the cortex, the researchers modeled the effect of schizophrenia on the growth curve of cortical thickness.

This revealed differences that occur within a specific group of highly-connected brain regions that mature in synchrony during typical development, but follow altered trajectories of growth in schizophrenia.
Full Citation:
Aaron F. Alexander-Bloch, Philip T. Reiss, Judith Rapoport, Harry McAdams, Jay N. Giedd, Ed T. Bullmore, Nitin Gogtay. Abnormal Cortical Growth in Schizophrenia Targets Normative Modules of Synchronized Development. Biological Psychiatry, 2014; 76 (6): 438 DOI: 10.1016/j.biopsych.2014.02.010

It wold be interesting (i.e., essential) to know what types of environmental factors played into this atypical developmental patterns. Decreased cortical thickness has long been associated with adverse childhood experiences (neglect, abuse, molestation, etc.).

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Deficits in agency in schizophrenia, and additional deficits in body image, body schema, and internal timing, in passivity symptoms

Kyran T. Graham [1,2], Mathew T. Martin-Iverson [1,2], Nicholas P. Holmes [3], Assen Jablensky [4] and Flavie Waters [2,4]
1. Pharmacology, Pharmacy and Anaesthesiology Unit, School of Medicine and Pharmacology, Faculty of Medicine, Dentistry and Health Sciences, The University of Western Australia, Perth, WA, Australia
2. Statewide Department of Neurophysiology and Clinical Research Centre, Graylands Hospital, North Metropolitan Health Services – Mental Health, Perth, WA, Australia
3. Centre for Integrative Neuroscience and Neurodynamics, School of Psychology and Clinical Language Sciences, University of Reading, Reading, UK
4. Centre for Clinical Research in Neuropsychiatry, School of Psychiatry and Clinical Neurosciences, The University of Western Australia, Perth, WA, Australia

Individuals with schizophrenia, particularly those with passivity symptoms, may not feel in control of their actions, believing them to be controlled by external agents. Cognitive operations that contribute to these symptoms may include abnormal processing in agency as well as body representations that deal with body schema and body image. However, these operations in schizophrenia are not fully understood, and the questions of general versus specific deficits in individuals with different symptom profiles remain unanswered. Using the projected-hand illusion (a digital video version of the rubber-hand illusion) with synchronous and asynchronous stroking (500 ms delay), and a hand laterality judgment task, we assessed sense of agency, body image, and body schema in 53 people with clinically stable schizophrenia (with a current, past, and no history of passivity symptoms) and 48 healthy controls. The results revealed a stable trait in schizophrenia with no difference between clinical subgroups (sense of agency) and some quantitative (specific) differences depending on the passivity symptom profile (body image and body schema). Specifically, a reduced sense of self-agency was a common feature of all clinical subgroups. However, subgroup comparisons showed that individuals with passivity symptoms (both current and past) had significantly greater deficits on tasks assessing body image and body schema, relative to the other groups. In addition, patients with current passivity symptoms failed to demonstrate the normal reduction in body illusion typically seen with a 500 ms delay in visual feedback (asynchronous condition), suggesting internal timing problems. Altogether, the results underscore self-abnormalities in schizophrenia, provide evidence for both trait abnormalities and state changes specific to passivity symptoms, and point to a role for internal timing deficits as a mechanistic explanation for external cues becoming a possible source of self-body input.

Full Citation: 
Graham KT, Martin-Iverson MT, Holmes NP, Jablensky A and Waters F. (2014, Sep 10). Deficits in agency in schizophrenia, and additional deficits in body image, body schema, and internal timing, in passivity symptoms. Front. Psychiatry 5:126. doi: 10.3389/fpsyt.2014.00126

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Social cognition in schizophrenic patients: the effect of semantic content and emotional prosody in the comprehension of emotional discourse

Perrine Brazo [1,2], Virginie Beaucousin [3], Laurent Lecardeur [1,2], Annick Razafimandimby [2] and Sonia Dollfus [1,2]
1. Service de Psychiatrie, Centre Hospitalier Universitaire de Caen, Caen, France
2. UMR6301 Imagerie et Stratégies Thérapeutiques des Pathologies Cérébrales et Tumorales (ISTCT), ISTS Team, Université de Caen Basse-Normandie, Caen, France
3. Laboratoire de Psychopathologie et Neuropsychologie, Université de Paris 8, Saint Denis, France

Background: The recognition of the emotion expressed during conversation relies on the integration of both semantic processing and decoding of emotional prosody. The integration of both types of elements is necessary for social interaction. No study has investigated how these processes are impaired in patients with schizophrenia during the comprehension of an emotional speech. Since patients with schizophrenia have difficulty in daily interactions, it would be of great interest to investigate how these processes are impaired. We tested the hypothesis that patients present lesser performances regarding both semantic and emotional prosodic processes during emotional speech comprehension compared with healthy participants.
Methods: The paradigm is based on sentences built with emotional (anger, happiness, or sadness) semantic content uttered with or without congruent emotional prosody. The study participants had to decide with which of the emotional categories each sentence corresponded.
Results: Patients performed significantly worse than their matched controls, even in the presence of emotional prosody, showing that their ability to understand emotional semantic content was impaired. Although prosody improved performances in both groups, it benefited the patients more than the controls.
Conclusion: Patients exhibited both impaired semantic and emotional prosodic comprehensions. However, they took greater advantage of emotional prosody adjunction than healthy participants. Consequently, focusing on emotional prosody during carrying may improve social communication.

Full Citation: 
Brazo P, Beaucousin V, Lecardeur L, Razafimandimby A and Dollfus S. (2014, Sep 10). Social cognition in schizophrenic patients: the effect of semantic content and emotional prosody in the comprehension of emotional discourse. Front. Psychiatry 5:120. doi: 10.3389/fpsyt.2014.00120

This is an interesting finding - it confirms one of the beliefs I am developing in working with clients who exhibit schizophrenic symptoms. My belief is that this inability to recognize and/or experience emotions is part of the genesis of the symptoms. For the clients I have seen, their emotions and the emotions of others are unbearable,  overwhelming, or simply incomprehensible.

The disconnect from the emotional (and therefore the sotmatic) self results, in my opinion, in the majority of symptoms, including the thought disorders and delusional beliefs. In this sense, schizophrenia is the defense mechanism of last resort, and the most extreme of all of the defense mechanisms. If we approach it that way in treatment, and slowly move the client into their emotions, I suspect there is a much better chance of a positive outcome.