Social Cognition in a Research Domain Criteria Perspective: A Bridge Between Schizophrenia and Autism Spectra Disorders

Stefano Barlati, Alessandra Minelli, Anna Ceraso, Gabriele Nibbio, Rosana Carvalho Silva, Giacomo Deste, Cesare Turrina, Antonio Vita

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Schizophrenia and autism spectra disorders are currently conceptualized as distinct clinical categories. However, the relationship between these two nosological entities has been revisited in recent years due to the evidence that they share some important clinical and neurobiological features, putting into question the nature and the extent of their commonalities and differences. In this respect, some core symptoms that are present in both disorders, such as social cognitive deficits, could be a primary target of investigation. This review briefly summarizes the commonalities and overlapping features between schizophrenia and autism spectra disorders in social cognitive functions, considering this construct in a Research Domain Criteria perspective. The clinical manifestation of deficits in social cognition are similar in schizophrenia spectrum disorders and autism spectrum disorders, and brain areas that appear to be altered in relation to these impairments are largely shared; however, the results of various studies suggest that, in some cases, the qualitative nature of these alterations may be different in the two spectra. Moreover, relevant differences could be present at the level of brain networks and connections. More research is required in this field, regarding molecular and genetic aspects of both spectra, to better define the neurobiological mechanisms involved in social cognition deficits, with the objective of developing specific and targeted treatments.

Original languageEnglish
Article number806
JournalFrontiers in Psychiatry
Publication statusPublished - Aug 28 2020


  • autism spectrum disorder
  • genetic
  • neurodevelopmental disorders
  • research domain criteria (RDoC) neuroimaging
  • schizophrenia spectrum disorder
  • social cognition

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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