Empathy and social attribution skills moderate the relationship between temporal lobe volume and facial expression recognition ability in schizophrenia
Minjee Jung 1, Seung Yeon Baik 1, Yourim Kim 1, Sungkean Kim 1, Dongil Min 1, Jeong-youn Kim 1, Seunghee Won 2, Seung-Hwan Lee 1*
1Clinical Emotion and Cognition Research Laboratory, Department of Psychiatry, Inje University, 2Kyungpook National University Hospital, Department of Psychiatry, 3Ilsan Paik Hospital, Department of Psychiatry, Inje University College of Medicine
Received: July 3, 2019; Revised: October 21, 2019; Accepted: November 5, 2019; Published online: November 5, 2019.
© The Korean College of Neuropsychopharmacology. All rights reserved.

Objective: While impaired facial expression recognition has been closely associated with reduced temporal lobe volume in patients with schizophrenia, this study aimed at examining whether empathy and social attribution affect such a relationship.
Method: A total of 43 patients with schizophrenia and 43 healthy controls underwent a facial expression recognition task (FERT) and magnetic resonance imaging. Basic empathy scale and the social attribution task-multiple choice were used to measure empathy and social attribution. Results: Patients with schizophrenia showed significant positive correlations between the total temporal lobe volume and the FERT-accuracy (FERT-ACC). Diminished temporal lobe volume predicted the impaired facial emotion recognition ability. Both empathy and social attribution played roles as moderators of the path from the left amygdala volume, left fusiform gyrus volume, both sides of the superior temporal gyrus volume, and left middle temporal gyrus volume to the FERT-ACC. In contrast, empathy alone functioned as a moderator between the right fusiform gyrus volume, right middle temporal gyrus volume, and FERT-ACC. No significant interaction was found for healthy controls.
Conclusion: Our results suggest that social cognition remediation training on empathy and social attribution, could buffer the negative effects of small temporal lobe volume on interpersonal emotional communication in patients with schizophrenia.
Keywords: schizophrenia, temporal lobe, social cognitive ability, empathy, social attribution, facial emotion recognition task