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Social exclusion as an acute psychosocial stressor in schizophrenia: impact on pathophysiology and social cognition


The main goal of SimpSoCoS is to explore how personal reactivity to social stress impacts on the pathophysiology of social cognition (SC) in schizophrenia (SZ). The drive: to open avenues for novel therapies by reducing the knowledge gap among the social context, the biological damage and the SZ clinical expression. SZ is a severe, highly stigmatised mental disorder conferring a vast economic burden. In Europe, the incidence of SZ is 15/100,000 persons and the morbidity risk, 7/1000. SC allows people to understand the social world. Thus, deficits in SC deeply limit functional recovery within SZ patients, causing severe socio-occupational disability. Yet, treatment efficacy on SC functioning is modest and a broad understanding of how daily life events influence SC dysfunction is missing. Stress evokes integrated physiological and behavioural adjustments in a changing environment. The autonomic nervous system and a neuroendocrine axis are the primary effector systems during stress responses. Within key stress regulatory brain circuits, the medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC) integrates and regulates physiological and behavioural stress responses and is a candidate modulator of social functioning. Its activation may be impaired in SZ. This project will address these challenges by connecting an interdisciplinary team combining stress integrative biology, clinical psychiatry research and neurophysiology. Based on a novel paradigm representative of real-life social exclusion situations for people with SZ, we propose a case-control evaluation of: a) SC performance before and after the stressor; b) subjective appraisal of the social stressor; c) cardiovascular and cortisol stress reactivity; d) the effect of mPFC activation by transcranial magnetic stimulation on the abovementioned endpoints in SZ patients. The interdisciplinary skills gained during this action will significantly enhance applicant’s future career prospects on bringing basic neuroscience closer to patient care.

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Plaza De San Diego
28801 Alcala De Henares/madrid
Activity type
Higher or Secondary Education Establishments
EU contribution
€ 259 398,72