Purpose: To assess changes in social and neuro-cognition and regional cerebral blood flow (rCBF) in schizophrenic patients with psychotic syndrome treated with Social Skill Training (SST).
Methods: 17 patients underwent two high resolution rCBF SPECT at rest before and after a one-year treatment with SST. Patients were assessed using a neuropsychological evaluation (W.A.I.S.-R, T.M.T, Verbal Fluency, W.C.S.T.). SPM8 was used to investigate rCBF changes from the pre- to the post-SST condition and the relationship between rCBF and clinical scores used as covariates of interest.
Results: All patients presented with an improvement in social perception, ability to deal with abstract social conventions, rules and judgments about people (Comprehension and Picture Completion sub-tests) and some neuro-cognitive functions sustaining the process of socially relevant information. The main effect of SST was to produce rCBF increases in precuneus, PCC, superior parietal lobules, PMC, pre-SMA, precentral gyrus, dmPFC, dlPFC, vmPFC, OFC (p<0.0001 uncorrected). The SPM analysis showed that Comprehension was supported by PMC, dmPFC, OFC and vmPFC, while the Picture Completion was supported by PMC and dmPFC (p<0.0001).
Conclusion: SST in schizophrenic patients improves resting neural activity in cortical areas of the amigdala-based and non-amygdala networks of social brain, including dmPFC and vmPFC, and dlPFC, which are known to be part of default mode and task-positive networks and to be implicated in schizophrenia.