Saal A4 (Stream/on Demand)
Topic 13: Bildgebung, Neurophysiologie, Neuropsychologie
Malfunctioning social interactions constitute core symptoms of a range of psychiatric disorders, including personality disorders and autism spectrum disorders. Within the last years, the conceptualization of these disorders has undergone a fundamental transition toward dimensional classification. A better understanding of the neurobiological mechanisms underlying interpersonal malfunctioning holds the promise to support the transition toward dimensional and trans-diagnostic criteria as well as the development of new therapeutic options.
This symposium will present new insights on these neurobiological mechanisms based on behavioral and neuroimaging studies that assess social interactions across a variety of tasks, which balance experimental control and ecological validity by harnessing multiple techniques for experimental setups and analytic approaches (including computational models, hyper-scanning, facial electromyography, and social robotics).
The employed experimental designs and the obtained results have begun to inspire new therapeutic options. We will showcase some current options and discuss avenues for new developments.
Christoph Korn will present behavioral and fMRI studies on how persons with borderline personality disorder cooperate with others in the face of threats. Computational models allow fine-grained comparisons of participants’ choices with optimal levels of cooperation.
Edda Bilek will show results from an fMRI study that uses hyper-scanning to assess how levels of mutual trust are reflected in the neural responses of persons with borderline personality disorder.
Corinne Neukel will present studies that detail how persons with borderline personality disorder react to emotional facial expressions. The assessed reactions encompass facial mirroring and emotional contagion.
Isabel Dziobek will give on overview of studies establishing how a range of social interactions—with other persons or “social robots”—can be implemented in therapeutic settings for individuals with autism.
Cooperation decisions in persons with borderline personality disorder – evidence from computational models and fMRI data
C. Korn (Heidelberg, DE)
Patients with BPD often fail to establish and/or maintain cooperation and seem to act in a more economically rational way. Such failures in social cooperation may be exacerbated in the face of threats. In addition, patients with BPD tend to perceive fair exchanges as less fair. It is difficult to distinguish if the uncooperative and unforgiving behavior of patients with BPD is based on strategic reward-maximizing considerations or on general distrust of others. We set up a multistep social decision-making task to test if patients with BPD are able to compute the long-term benefits of mutual cooperation and if they cooperate with a partner when the cooperative choice is costly or threatening to themselves. In addition, we test if the decision to cooperate depends on expectations about the other person’s cooperative behavior. We combine computational modelling and fMRI to test if differences in strategies between the groups are related to differences in medial prefrontal cortex activity. Specifically, we designed a social decision-making task framed as a virtual foraging task with the threat of virtual starvation. We led participants to believe that they complete this task with another participant and that their choices do not only influence their own but also the other person’s outcome. In an additional behavioral version of the task, we ask participants to indicate their expectations about the other person’s choice. In our pilot dataset, we found that healthy participants choose the cooperative option more often, when a hypothetical partner needed help, compared to when the hypothetical partner did not need help. Participants’ decisions also depend on how costly the cooperative option was for themselves. We have already tested a substantial number of patients with BPD but have not yet looked into this dataset because the preregistration is still pending. Our analysis pipelines are in place and results will be presented in the symposium.
Decreased facial reactivity and mirroring in women with borderline personality disorder – a facial electromyography study
C. Neukel (Heidelberg, DE)
Maladaptive interpersonal relationships are a core feature of Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD). Poor social communication including the capacity to convey one's emotional state non-verbally and to mirror others' facial expressions may be affected in BPD. In this study, 81 women with BPD and 38 female healthy controls (HCs) participated in an emotion recognition task. Facial activity of four muscles (zygomaticus major, levator labii superioris, orbicularis oculi, corrugator supercilii) was measured by electromyography (EMG) and participants rated their subjective emotional responses to dynamic facial expressions (happiness, fear, anger, sadness, disgust, surprise). Compared to HCs, patients with BPD overall showed lower EMG activity of facial muscles in response to dynamic facial expressions. Particularly, the BPD group showed less EMG activity to happy faces in the zygomaticus major, to disgusted faces in the levator labii superioris and to surprised faces in the corrugator supercilii compared to HCs. In contrast to HCs, patients with BPD reported stronger subjective emotional responses to all presented emotions but happiness. Decreased facial reactivity and mirroring along with increased stronger subjective responses to negative emotions of others' facial emotions could trigger difficulties in social communication. Therapeutic approaches targeting non-verbal behavior in social communication may be a worthwhile element of psychotherapy in BPD.
From transdiagnostic group psychotherapy to social robotics – new treatments for individuals with autism without impairments of intelligence
I. Dziobek (Berlin, DE)
New neurobiologically informed therapy options for social interaction for adults and children with autism spectrum condition
Individuals with autism spectrum conditions (ASC), even if in the normal intelligence range, present with marked difficulties in social interaction. Among the most important treatment goals voiced by individuals living with the diagnosis is in fact improved social competency. In an effort towards elucidation of the basis of problems with social interaction, recent years have seen an upsurge of studies focusing on neurocognitive and affective mechanisms in this population. Among others EEG and fMRI studies have been conducted on emotion understanding, cognitive empathy and social reward. In this presentation recent research works of the group will be presented on these social cognitive mechanisms in children and adults with ASC. In addition, treatment studies using novel digitalized interventions targeting social cognition will be shown that are informed by those studies on neurocognitive mechanisms. More specifically, studies in children without ASC will be shown targeting cognitive and emotional empathy using an EEG-informed RCT, accompanied by studies on EEG-informed social reward in adults with and without ASC. Results of those studies have informed the tablet- and tutor-based therapy Zirkus Empathico, effectiveness of which has been investigated in an RCT in children with ASC. In addition, results of fMRI studies on complex emotion understanding will be shown that have informed the development of the digital intervention E.V.A. (Understanding and Expressing Emotions), which is currently been investigated in the largest international study to date on social interaction focused psychotherapy in adult ASC.