A recent study - with the help of 'body maps' - showed that people with schizophrenia experience emotion differently from others.
The findings of the Vanderbilt University researchers have been published in the journal Schizophrenia Bulletin.
Sohee Park and Lenie J. Torregrossa 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 colouring 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 don't differentiate on their body maps for varying emotions. That may pose a problem for them in identifying, recognizing and verbalising their emotions or trying to understand the emotions of others.
Torregrossa said 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.
"The main outcome of this research is that we have a better understanding of why people with schizophrenia might have trouble interacting with others," she said. "What we can do now is help them learn to attend to physiological sensations arising from their bodies and use them to process emotions."