Schizophrenics display impairments in domains of social cognition such as theory of mind and emotion recognition. Recent studies, showing that the relationship of social cognition abilities with functional outcome is more significant than other neuro-cognitive functions, have considered these abilities as a target for intervention research. This article describes preliminary data from a new group-based study focused on Emotion and ToM Imitation Training (ETIT), an imitation treatment aimed at improving social cognition and social functioning in schizophrenia. In the present study, 16 outpatients with schizophrenia completed ETIT assessment and were compared with 17 outpatients who participated to a Problem Solving Training group. Participants were assessed at pre- and post-test on measures of emotion recognition, theory of mind, cognition, flexibility and social functioning. We compared the rehabilitation training effects on neuro-physiological activation through the event-related potentials (ERPs) method, which was recorded pre- and post-rehabilitation training. The results showed that when compared to the control group, ETIT participants improved on every social cognitive measure and showed better social functioning at post-test. Improvement in social cognition, in particular in emotion recognition, is also supported by ERP responses: we recorded an increase in electroactivity of medio-frontal areas only after ETIT treatment. Action observation and imitation could be regarded as a new frontier in rehabilitation.
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