Inflammation, Social Cognition and Social Functioning in Schizophrenia

Eisenberger et al. (2017). Neuropsychopharmacology 42, 242–253.

(The following work has recently been published, and may be found here.)

Schizophrenia is characterized by significant deficits in social cognition, which lead to poor social functioning and disability. Yet, despite their chronicity and high prevalence, the underlying neurobiology of these deficits remains poorly understood. Recent studies have suggested a link between social cognition and inflammation, yet direct evidence of this putative link in schizophrenia is scarce. Additionally, it is unknown whether this putative link extends to social functioning. To address this gap in the literature, we explored relationships among social cognition, social functioning and inflammation in individuals with schizophrenia.

Thirty-two participants diagnosed with a psychosis spectrum disorder (i.e., schizophrenia, schizoaffective or schizophreniform disorder) completed self-report and interview-based measures of social functioning and social cognition including emotion awareness, emotion regulation, and emotion management. Inflammation markers assessed included IL-1β, IL-6, IL-12p70, TNF-α, as well as neutrophils, basophils, and eosinophils. Results demonstrated that poorer emotion awareness was significantly associated with decreased levels of IL-12p70 and absolute eosinophils levels (after controlling for body mass index, depression, and antipsychotic medication). Also, greater use of maladaptive emotion regulation strategies was associated with lower absolute eosinophils levels. Finally, higher IL-12p70 was associated with worse interview-based social functioning.

Our findings support previous research linking social cognition with specific inflammatory markers in schizophrenia and suggest these associations extend to social functioning in this population.