People with schizophrenia experience emotion through their bodies differently from those who do not suffer from the disorder, a study has found.
Researchers from the Vanderbilt University in the US compared individuals with schizophrenia with matched control participants, asking each to fill in a "body map" in a way that correlates to the way they physically experience emotion.
They used a computerised coloring task to locate where participants feel sensations when they experience, for example, anger or depression.
The outcomes differed radically between groups, with the control group showing distinct maps of sensations for 13 different emotions, indicating specific patterns of increased arousal and decreased energy across the body for each emotion.
However, in individuals with schizophrenia, there was an overall reduction of bodily sensation across all emotions.
The study also found that individuals with schizophrenia do not differentiate on their body maps for varying emotions. That may pose a problem for them in identifying, recognising and verbalizing their emotions or trying to understand the emotions of others.
The research will allow the team to move forward in developing ways to help people with schizophrenia process emotions, which, in turn, could improve interpersonal relationships, said Lenie J Torregrossa, a PhD student at Vanderbilt University.
The main outcome of this research is that we have a better understanding of why people with schizophrenia might have trouble interacting with others.
"What we can do now is help them learn to attend to physiological sensations arising from their bodies and use them to process emotions," she added.