Impairment of face perception in schizophrenia is a core aspect of social cognitive dysfunction. This impairment is particularly marked in threatening face processing. Identifying reliable neural correlates of the impairment of threatening face processing is crucial for targeting more effective treatments. However, neuroimaging studies have not yet obtained robust conclusions. Through comprehensive literature search, twenty-one whole brain datasets were included in this meta-analysis. Using seed-based d-Mapping, in this voxel-based meta-analysis, we aimed to: 1) establish the most consistent brain dysfunctions related to threating face processing in schizophrenia; 2) address task-type heterogeneity in this impairment; 3) explore the effect of potential demographic or clinical moderator variables on this impairment. Main meta-analysis indicated that patients with chronic schizophrenia demonstrated attenuated activations in limbic emotional system along with compensatory over-activation in medial prefrontal cortex (MPFC) during threatening faces processing. Sub-task analyses revealed under-activations in right amygdala and left fusiform gyrus in both implicit and explicit tasks. The remaining clusters were found to be differently involved in different types of tasks. Moreover, meta-regression analyses showed brain abnormalities in schizophrenia were partly modulated by age, gender, medication and severity of symptoms. Our results highlighted breakdowns in limbic-MPFC circuit in schizophrenia, suggesting general inability to coordinate and contextualize salient threat stimuli. These findings provide potential targets for neurotherapeutic and pharmacological interventions for schizophrenia.
- Facial perception
- Limbic-MPFC circuit