Schizophrenia Pilot Project

Family Socialization, Neural Functioning and Positive Symptoms in Schizophrenia Specific Aims


Mary Helen Immordino-Yang (PI)

Asst. Professor of Education, Psychology, and Neuroscience at USC. She is an affective neuroscientist and developmental psychologist who studies the neural, psychophysiological and psychological bases of emotion, social interaction and culture. She and her co-authors received the Cozzarelli Prize from the National Academy of Sciences for the most distinguished paper of the year in the behavioral and social sciences category–“Neural correlates of admiration and compassion.” PNAS, 106(19), 8021-8026.

Steven López

Professor of Psychology and Social Work, USC. He has published over 70 peer reviewed articles on culture, psychopathology, assessment and intervention, with particular attention to Latinos. Lopez has received NIH-funding to study family processes and the course of schizophrenia among largely immigrant Mexican families.

Nicholas Breitborde: Asst. Professor of Psychiatry at the Univ. of Arizona’ School of Medicine. His past research has focused on family processes in schizophrenia with attention to family caregivers perceptions of their ill relative’s agency. He is also the Director of the Early Prevention & Intervention Clinic for Schizophrenia.

Maricela Correa-Chávez: Asst. Professor of Psychology at Clark University. Her research examines learning as a cultural activity tied to people’s participation in community traditions and institutions (like school). The focus is on the different cultural ways children use attention in learning, in social interaction, and in communication. She will contribute to developing a behavioral measure of other orientation.

Isabel Lagomasino, MD: Asst. Professor of Psychiatry, USC School of Medicine. Has received NIH funding to improve mental health care for Latinos with depression in primary care.

Specific Aims

The overall objective of the proposed research is to assess whether the social world of persons with schizophrenia is associated with the disorder’s neurobiological underpinnings and the disorder’s expression. We propose to carry out three studies to test a set of hypotheses that family socialization and its emphasis on self or other orientation can augment or mitigate both neurobiological correlates of the disorder and the expression of the disorder. We have chosen to focus our research on Mexican-origin families because we expect considerable sociocultural variability in self/other orientation given acculturation level.

  1. The first specific aim is to bring together a multidisciplinary team to develop a novel multi-method assessment of families’ socialization of self and other orientations that is embedded in the everyday lives of families. We hypothesize that our measure will correlate with self-report measures of individualism/collectivism and that Spanish-speaking Mexican origin families will have a lesser self-orientation and greater other orientation than English-speaking Mexican origin families.
  2. The second specific aim is to apply an adaptation of the self and other orientation measure to a sample of normal subjects for whom scans have already been collected in a protocol that examines neural correlates of active engagement in social emotion tasks and neural correlates of the resting state (or the brain’s “default” mode). We hypothesize that the degree of other orientation in individuals’ socialization and spontaneous social speech while engaging in an interview about emotional social scenarios will be associated with tighter coupling between neural regions implicated in the default mode during rest, but also more efficient toggling between these and outwardly focused attention networks during the processing of social scenarios. (Toggling refers to the lessening of connectivity strength in one network as the connectivity in the other network is ramped up; connectivity is a measure of neural coordination or cross-talk between regions).
  3. The third specific aim is to extend this research to Mexican Americans with schizophrenia to examine whether self and other orientation in family socialization practices is related to (1) neural functioning and (2) severity of positive symptoms (e.g., delusions and hallucinations). With regard to neural functioning we will specifically examine neural activity and connectivity in the default network during rest, and efficiency of toggling between default related regions and outwardly focused regions during the processing of social scenarios (i.e. alternate suppression of default and attention brain regions). We will test whether self and other orientation socialization is related to neural and/or psychological functioning. We hypothesize that higher scores on self orientation of the family will be related to stronger default mode connectivity during rest, less efficient toggling during social processing, and greater severity of symptoms; the opposite relationships would hold for higher scores on other orientation of the family. This pattern of findings would support the view that an other-oriented family socialization practice mitigates against the ill person’s expression of symptoms.