Visual scanpath dysfunction in first-degree relatives of schizophrenia probands: evidence for a vulnerability marker?

Schizophr Res. 2004 Mar 1;67(1):11-21. doi: 10.1016/s0920-9964(03)00094-x.


Previous research demonstrates that people with schizophrenia have abnormally 'restricted' visual scanpaths to face and facial expression stimuli, which appear to be diagnostically specific to schizophrenia [Schizophr. Res. 55 (2002) 159; Biol. Psychiatry 52 (2002) 338]. This study examined the familial transmission of 'restricted' scanpaths in first-degree relatives of schizophrenia subjects. We recorded visual scanpaths for 65 schizophrenia subjects, 37 biological first-degree relatives and 61 nonrelated 'healthy' control subjects in two experiments: 'face recognition' and 'facial affect recognition'. Concurrent behavioral tasks were face matching and expression matching, each under two multiple-choice conditions (seven or three options). As predicted, first-degree relatives generally showed an attenuated form of the markedly 'restricted' scanpaths of schizophrenia subjects across all face stimuli. The notable exception to this pattern was the relatives' extreme avoidance of facial features (compared to both schizophrenia and healthy control groups). Our results offer the first evidence that some components of visual scanpath dysfunction may represent a trait marker in the familial transmission of schizophrenia, but that first-degree relatives may have additional disturbances in social cognition associated with the perception of facial features.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Affect
  • Face
  • Female
  • Fixation, Ocular / physiology*
  • Genetic Markers
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Perceptual Disorders / etiology*
  • Perceptual Disorders / genetics*
  • Recognition, Psychology
  • Schizophrenia / complications*
  • Schizophrenia / genetics*
  • Visual Perception / physiology*


  • Genetic Markers