Global neural self-disturbance in schizophrenia: A systematic fMRI review

Sami George Sabbah, Georg Northoff

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


There is a general consensus that schizophrenia (SZ) is characterized by major changes in the sense of self. Phenomenological studies suggest that these changes in the sense of self stem from a basic disturbance, hence the term ‘basic self-disturbance’. While imaging studies demonstrate changes in various regions during self-focused tasks, the exact neural correlates of such basic self-disturbances remain unclear. If the self-disturbance is indeed basic and thereby underlies all other symptoms, one would expect it to be related to more global rather than local changes in the brain. Testing this hypothesis, we conducted a systematic review of fMRI studies on self in SZ. Our main findings are 1. Abnormal activity related to the self can be observed in a variety of different regions ranging from higher-order transmodal to lower-order unimodal regions, 2. These findings hold true across different tasks including self-reflection, self-referentiality, and self-agency, and 3. The global neural abnormalities related to the self in SZ correspond to all layers of the self, predominantly the mental and exteroceptive self. Such global neural disturbance of self converges well with the basic self-disturbance as described in phenomenology.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)163-173
Number of pages11
JournalSchizophrenia Research
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2024
Externally publishedYes


  • fMRI
  • Phenomenology
  • Schizophrenia
  • Self-disturbance

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Biological Psychiatry


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