Learning to trust: social feedback normalizes trust behavior in first-episode psychosis and clinical high risk

Imke L.J. Lemmers-Jansen, Anne Kathrin J. Fett, Esther Hanssen, Dick J. Veltman, Lydia Krabbendam

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Background: Psychosis is characterized by problems in social functioning that exist well before illness onset, and in individuals at clinical high risk (CHR) for psychosis. Trust is an essential element for social interactions that is impaired in psychosis. In the trust game, chronic patients showed reduced baseline trust, impaired response to positive social feedback, and attenuated brain activation in reward and mentalizing areas. We investigated whether first-episode psychosis patients (FEP) and CHR show similar abnormalities in the neural and behavioral mechanisms underlying trust. Methods: Twenty-two FEP, 17 CHR, and 43 healthy controls performed two trust games, with a cooperative and an unfair partner in the fMRI scanner. Region of interest analyses were performed on mentalizing and reward processing areas, during the investment and outcome phases of the games. Results: Compared with healthy controls, FEP and CHR showed reduced baseline trust, but like controls, learned to trust in response to cooperative and unfair feedback. Symptom severity was not associated with baseline trust, however in FEP associated with reduced response to feedback. The only group differences in brain activation were that CHR recruited the temporo-parietal junction (TPJ) more than FEP and controls during investment in the unfair condition. This hyper-activation in CHR was associated with greater symptom severity. Conclusions: Reduced baseline trust may be associated with risk for psychotic illness, or generally with poor mental health. Feedback learning is still intact in CHR and FEP, as opposed to chronic patients. CHR however show distinct neural activation patterns of hyper-activation of the TPJ.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)780-790
Number of pages11
JournalPsychological Medicine
Issue number5
Early online date13 Jun 2018
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2019


  • Clinical high risk
  • fMRI
  • first-episode psychosis
  • social feedback
  • trust

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