Introduction: Patients with schizophrenia commonly exhibit deficits of non-verbal communication in social contexts, which may be related to cognitive dysfunction that impairs recognition of biological motion. Although perception of biological motion is known to be mediated by the mirror neuron system, there have been few empirical studies of this system in patients with schizophrenia. Methods: Using magnetoencephalography, we examined whether antipsychotic-free schizophrenia patients displayed mirror neuron system dysfunction during observation of biological motion (jaw movement of another individual). Results: Compared with normal controls, the patients with schizophrenia had fewer components of both the waveform and equivalent current dipole, suggesting aberrant brain activity resulting from dysfunction of the right inferior parietal cortex. They also lacked the changes of alpha band and gamma band oscillation seen in normal controls, and had weaker phase-locking factors and gamma-synchronization predominantly in right parietal cortex. Conclusions: Our findings demonstrate that untreated patients with schizophrenia exhibit aberrant mirror neuron system function based on the right inferior parietal cortex, which is characterized by dysfunction of gamma-synchronization in the right parietal lobe during observation of biological motion.
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