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Neurophysiology, neurocognition, and social cognition: Measuring the pathways to improved functional outcome in severe mental illness

Melissa Tarasenko, University of Nebraska - Lincoln


It is widely known that people with severe mental illness (SMI) exhibit functional deficits across multiple domains, including interpersonal relationships, educational and occupational functioning, and independent living skills. Effective rehabilitation for people within this population necessitates the removal or remediation of barriers to successful functioning. Neurocognitive, and more recently, social cognitive impairments have been identified as primary deterrents to improved outcomes. Affective prosody perception (APP), or the ability to recognize emotional tones of voice, is a social cognitive ability that has been shown to be functionally-relevant (Fett, Viechtbauer, Dominguez et al., 2011), and deficient in SMI (Hoekert, Kahn, Pijnenbort, & Aleman, 2007). Attempts at remediating social cognitive deficits have been moderately successful but have largely ignored APP. Investigations of the neurophysiological contributions to APP could potentially inform effective treatment of APP deficits. The mismatch negativity (MMN), an ERP (event-related potential) component that indexes auditory change detection, is particularly well-suited for this endeavor. Two auditory oddball tasks that index preattentive processing of “angry” and “question” prosody were developed for the present study. The oddball tasks, along with measures of auditory attention (Letter-Number Sequencing), speech perception (Speech Sounds Perception Test), explicit APP (Voice Emotion Identification Test), and self-reported social functioning (Social Functioning Scale), were administered to psychology undergraduates who endorsed a range of schizotypal personality traits. Results suggest that the oddball tasks were successful at eliciting the MMN, although contrary to our hypothesis, MMN to the “angry” oddball was not greater than MMN to the “question” oddball. No relationships were found between MMN, neurocognition, social cognition, social functioning, or schizotypal personality traits, contrary to our expectations. These findings hold important implications for applying research paradigms from cognitive and affective neuroscience to clinical science. Implications of the present study for the assessment and treatment of SMI are also discussed.

Subject Area

Neurosciences|Psychology|Clinical psychology

Recommended Citation

Tarasenko, Melissa, "Neurophysiology, neurocognition, and social cognition: Measuring the pathways to improved functional outcome in severe mental illness" (2013). ETD collection for University of Nebraska - Lincoln. AAI3594624.