Individuals with schizophrenia demonstrate stable deficits in affect recognition. Similar deficits in affect recognition have been observed in those who are at clinical high risk (CHR) of developing psychosis. The current project aimed to longitudinally examine affect processing in CHR individuals, to determine if affect processing predicted later conversion to psychosis and if affect processing deficits were unique to those who met established criteria for prodromal syndromes. The sample consisted of 172 CHR and 100 help-seeking individuals (HS) who were followed for up to 24 months. All CHR individuals met the Criteria of Prodromal Syndromes (COPS) based on the Structured Interview for Prodromal Symptoms (SIPS). The SIPS was used to determine conversion to psychosis. Affect recognition was assessed using two facial affect recognition tasks and a measure of affective prosody. In comparison to previously published data from non-psychiatric controls, both CHR and HS groups demonstrated deficits in affect recognition. By 2 years 25 CHR participants converted to psychosis. Interestingly, there were no differences between converters and non-converters on any affect recognition tasks. This is one of the first studies to longitudinally examine affect processing and its relationship to later conversion to psychosis in individuals at-risk for psychosis. While poorer affect recognition may be associated with vulnerability for psychosis, the current results suggest that it may not be a marker of developing a psychotic illness.
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