Patients with schizophrenia have difficulties in social cognitive domains including emotion recognition and mentalization, and in sensorimotor processing and learning. The relationship between social cognitive deficits and sensorimotor function in patients with schizophrenia remains largely unexplored. With the hypothesis that impaired visual motor processing may decelerate information processing and subsequently affects various domains of social cognition, we examined the association of nonverbal emotion recognition, mentalization, and visual motor processing in schizophrenia. The study examined mentalization using the verbal subset of the Chinese version of Theory of Mind (CToM) Task, an equivalent task of the Faux Pas Test; emotion recognition using the Diagnostic Analysis of Nonverbal Accuracy 2-Taiwan version (DANVA-2-TW), and visual motor processing using a joystick tracking task controlled for basic motor function in 34 individuals with chronic schizophrenia in the community and 42 healthy controls. Patients with schizophrenia had significantly worse performance than healthy controls in social cognition, including facial, prosodic emotion recognition, and mentalization. Visual motor processing was also significantly worse in patients with schizophrenia. Only in patients with schizophrenia, both emotion recognition (mainly in prosodic modality, happy, and sad emotions) and mentalization were positively associated with their learning capacity of visual motor processing. These findings suggest a prospective role of sensorimotor function in their social cognitive deficits. Despite that the underlying neural mechanism needs further research, our findings may provide a new direction for restoration of social cognitive function in schizophrenia by enhancing visual motor processing ability.
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