Development of social cognition, a unique and high-order function, depends on brain maturation from childhood to adulthood in humans. Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and schizophrenia have similar social cognitive deficits, although age of onset in each disorder is different. Pathogenesis of these disorders is complex and contains several features, including genetic risk factors, environmental risk factors, and sites of abnormalities in the brain. Although several hypotheses have been postulated, they seem to be insufficient to explain how brain alterations associated with symptoms in these disorders develop at distinct developmental stages. Development of ASD appears to be related to cerebellar dysfunction and subsequent thalamic hyperactivation in early childhood. By contrast, schizophrenia seems to be triggered by thalamic hyperactivation in late adolescence, whereas hippocampal aberration has been possibly initiated in childhood. One of the possible culprits is metal homeostasis disturbances that can induce dysfunction of blood-cerebrospinal fluid barrier. Thalamic hyperactivation is thought to be induced by microglia-mediated neuroinflammation and abnormalities of intracerebral environment. Consequently, it is likely that the thalamic hyperactivation triggers dysregulation of the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex for lower brain regions related to social cognition. In this review, we summarize the brain aberration in ASD and schizophrenia and provide a possible mechanism underlying social cognitive deficits in these disorders based on their distinct ages of onset.
- Received April 18, 2016.
- Accepted July 5, 2016.
The authors declare no conflict of interest. Both authors are employees of Mitsubishi Tanabe Pharma and have not received financial support from any other institution.
- Copyright © 2016 by The American Society for Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics