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Coping with rejection

Tuesday 3 May 2011

Using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) scientists from the Institute of Psychiatry (IoP) at King’s College London have shown for the first time how the brain responds to rejection in individuals with a schizotypal personality .

Evidence suggests that rejecting attitudes by close family members can aggravate mental illness in those with a psychiatric diagnosis. People with schizotypal personality traits – strong beliefs in magical abilities, paranormal experiences and being able to control other people’s minds – are sensitive to being rejected and may experience insecurity, stress and anxiety as a result. Rejection by family members could be an added stress in people with a high level of schizotypy that may demand alternative coping styles compared to most people.

Lead author Dr Preethi Premkumar, said: ‘We found that those with schizotypal symptoms, who had lower momentary mood, also activated to a lesser extent the key brain centre for processing social rejection, namely the anterior cingulate cortex, compared to a group of control participants. This suggests that these individuals may minimise distress by distancing themselves from the rejection’.

The study also found that activity in the brain area that distinguished rejection from acceptance scenes across all participants - the lingual gyrus – was related to participants subsequently regarding the scenes as more neutral, suggesting that this brain region may be related to controlling one’s emotions.

Dr Premkumar concludes: ‘The results of this study can help us to begin to understand how the brain response to social rejection is altered in non-clinical populations that have unusual perceptual experiences.’

'Neural processing of social rejection: The role of schizotypal personality traits' is published in Human Brain Mapping  


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