Comparing the neural bases of self-referential processing in typically developing and 22q11.2 adolescents
The investigation of self-reflective processing during adolescence is relevant, as this period is characterized by deep reorganization of the self-concept. It may be the case that an atypical development of brain regions underlying self-reflective processing increases the risk for psychological disorders and impaired social functioning. In this study, we investigated the neural bases of self- and other-related processing in typically developing adolescents and youths with 22q11.2 deletion syndrome (22q11DS), a rare neurogenetic condition associated with difficulties in social interactions and increased risk for schizophrenia. The fMRI paradigm consisted in judging if a series of adjectives applied to the participant himself/herself (self), to his/her best friend or to a fictional character (Harry Potter). In control adolescents, we observed that self- and other-related processing elicited strong activation in cortical midline structures (CMS) when contrasted with a semantic baseline condition. 22q11DS exhibited hypoactivation in the CMS and the striatum during the processing of self-related information when compared to the control group. Finally, the hypoactivation in the anterior cingulate cortex was associated with the severity of prodromal positive symptoms of schizophrenia. The findings are discussed in a developmental framework and in light of their implication for the development of schizophrenia in this at-risk population.