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Schizophrenia : Theory of mind

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The concept of a ‘theory of mind’ has become increasingly popular in attempting to describe the cognitive deficits in schizophrenia. The term was first used in association with Theory of mind|autism, where the inability of these individuals to attribute mental states to others and to “mind-read” was described as a result of abnormal or absent theory of mind (Baron-Cohen 1988;Frith & Happe 1994;Kleinman et al 2001).

In recent years, theory of mind deficits have also been described in people with schizophrenia – the hypothesis being that they develop a theory of mind but lose it with the onset of illness, as opposed to autistic individuals in whom it never developed (Frith 1994;Corcoran et al 1995;Frith & Corcoran 1996;;Sarfati et al 1999Pickup & Frith 2001).

When theory of mind tests are conducted in schizophrenics in conjunction with functional imaging, the areas that correlate with impaired performance are the prefrontal cortex, the temporal lobes and their intervening connections (Russell et al 2000). See Neuroanatomy of theory of mind

This suggests that areas play a critical role in metarepresentation and theory of mind ability and that it is these connections that are structurally and/or functionally impaired in schizophrenia.

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