Trust and the city: Linking urban upbringing to neural mechanisms of trust in psychosis

Imke L. J. Lemmers-Jansen, Anne-Kathrin J. Fett, Jim van Os, Dick J. Veltman, Lydia Krabbendam

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8 Citations (Scopus)


Objective: Elevated prevalence of non-affective psychotic disorders is often found in densely populated areas. This functional magnetic resonance imaging study investigates if reduced trust, a component of impaired social functioning in patients with psychotic disorder, is associated with urban upbringing. Methods: In total, 39 patients (22 first episode and 17 clinical high risk) and 30 healthy controls, aged 16–29, performed two multi-round trust games, with a cooperative and unfair partner during functional magnetic resonance imaging scanning. Baseline trust was operationalized as the first investment made, and changes of trust as changes in investments made over the 20 trials during the games. Urban exposure during upbringing (0–15 years) was defined as higher urban (≥2500 inhabitants/km 2) or lower urban (<2500 inhabitants/km 2). Results: Patients displayed lower baseline trust (first investment) than controls, regardless of urbanicity exposure. During cooperative interactions, lower-urban patients showed increasing investments. In addition, during cooperative interactions, group-by-developmental urbanicity interactions were found in the right and left amygdalae, although for the latter only at trend level. Higher urbanicity was associated with decreased activation of the left amygdala in patients and controls during investments and with increased activation of the right and left amygdalae in patients only, during repayments. During unfair interactions, no associations of urbanicity with behavior or brain activation were found. Conclusion: Urban upbringing was unrelated to baseline trust. Associations with urbanicity were stronger for patients compared to controls, suggesting greater susceptibility to urbanicity effects during the developmental period. Higher-urban patients failed to compensate for the initial distrust specifically during repeated cooperative interactions. This finding highlights potential implications for social functioning. Urban upbringing was linked to differential amygdala activation, suggesting altered mechanisms of feedback learning, but this was not associated with trust game behavior.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)138-149
Number of pages12
JournalThe Australian and New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry
Issue number2
Early online date14 Aug 2019
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2020


  • Psychotic disorder
  • amygdala
  • functional magnetic resonance imaging
  • trust
  • urbanicity

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