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doi:10.1093/schbul/sbm079 Advance Access publication on July 13, 2007 A Social Deafferentation Hypothesis for Induction of Active Schizophrenia

By Ralph E. Hoffman


The ‘‘social brain’ ’ of humans reflects widespread neural resources dedicated to understanding the conversational language, emotionality, states of mind, and intentions of other persons. A social deafferentation (SDA) hypothesis for induction of active schizophrenia is proposed. Analogous to hallucinations produced by sensory deafferentation, such as phantom limb, the SDA hypothesis assumes that high levels of social withdrawal/isolation in vulnerable individuals prompt social cognition programs to produce spurious social meaning in the form of complex, emotionally compelling hallucinations and delusions representing other persons or agents. Arguments against the SDA hypothesis are discussed, and predictions deriving from the hypothesis are offered. Key words: social cognition/auditory hallucinations/ delusions/social withdrawal There is an expanding body of research characterizing the ‘‘social brain’ ’ of humans—those neural resources dedicated to understanding conversational language, emotionality, intentions, actions, and states of mind of other persons based on on-going experience. 1–5 What happens to the ‘‘social brain’ ’ when opportunities for such experience are drastically curtailed? This question is raised by the fact that social withdrawal is a wellknown symptom of schizophrenia. There is evidence that this negative symptom is a consequence of active illness due to amotivation, worsening cognitive impairment, and/or internal preoccupation with psychotic experience. 6–8 It is possible, however, that causality also operates in the opposite direction, namely that social withdrawal is itself an important factor in triggering the initial active phase of schizophrenia. In this article, I will discuss a variant of this view termed the ‘‘social deafferentation’ ’ (SDA) hypothesis. This hypothesis stems from 3 observations

Year: 2013
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