The aim of the present study is to use neuroscience theories about brain function (mirror-neurons MN) to draw inferences about the mechanisms supporting emotional resonance in two different groups of schizophrenia patients (with flat affect FA+ n=13 and without flat affect FA- n=11). We hypothesize that FA+ will not activate key brain areas involved in emotional processing. Conversely, FA- will have a functional mirror system for emotional resonance confirmed by activation of the prefrontal cortex and behavioral results. To test this hypothesis, we compared the two groups using blood oxygenation level-dependent (BOLD) functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) displaying a passive visual task (44 negative IAPS pictures and 44 neutral pictures). A random-effects analysis, for schizophrenia patients FA-, revealed significant loci of activation in the left mesial prefrontal (MPFC), right orbitofrontal (OFC) and left anterior cingulate cortices (ACC). Correlational analyses carried out between self-report ratings of negative feelings and BOLD signal changes revealed the existence of positive correlation in the LACC, LMPFC and ROFC. Conversely, FA+ did not show significant activation in the prefrontal cortex. We propose that negative emotional resonance induced by passively viewing negative pictures may be a form of "mirroring" that grounds negative feelings via an experiential mechanism. Hence, it could be argued that FA- were able to 'feel' emotions through this resonance behavior. Conversely, we suggest that the dysfunction seen in the FA+ group is a failure or distortion in the development of the MN system. This could be due to genetic or other endogenous causes, which affected prefrontal cortex MN involved in emotional resonance.
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