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Keywords:

  • co-verbal gestures;
  • metaphoric gestures;
  • iconic gestures;
  • integration;
  • schizophrenia

Abstract

Gestures are an important component of interpersonal communication. Especially, complex multimodal communication is assumed to be disrupted in patients with schizophrenia. In healthy subjects, differential neural integration processes for gestures in the context of concrete [iconic (IC) gestures] and abstract sentence contents [metaphoric (MP) gestures] had been demonstrated. With this study we wanted to investigate neural integration processes for both gesture types in patients with schizophrenia. During functional magnetic resonance imaging-data acquisition, 16 patients with schizophrenia (P) and a healthy control group (C) were shown videos of an actor performing IC and MP gestures and associated sentences. An isolated gesture (G) and isolated sentence condition (S) were included to separate unimodal from bimodal effects at the neural level. During IC conditions (IC > G ∩ IC > S) we found increased activity in the left posterior middle temporal gyrus (pMTG) in both groups. Whereas in the control group the left pMTG and the inferior frontal gyrus (IFG) were activated for the MP conditions (MP > G ∩ MP > S), no significant activation was found for the identical contrast in patients. The interaction of group (P/C) and gesture condition (MP/IC) revealed activation in the bilateral hippocampus, the left middle/superior temporal and IFG. Activation of the pMTG for the IC condition in both groups indicates intact neural integration of IC gestures in schizophrenia. However, failure to activate the left pMTG and IFG for MP co-verbal gestures suggests a disturbed integration of gestures embedded in an abstract sentence context. This study provides new insight into the neural integration of co-verbal gestures in patients with schizophrenia. Hum Brain Mapp, 2013. © 2012 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.