Cardiac Responses during Picture Viewing in Young Male Patients with Schizophrenia

Cardiovasc Psychiatry Neurol. 2012;2012:858562. doi: 10.1155/2012/858562. Epub 2012 Nov 10.

Abstract

Previous research investigating the emotion recognition ability in patients with schizophrenia has mainly focused on the recognition of facial expressions. To broaden our understanding of emotional processes in patients with schizophrenia, this study aimed to investigate whether these patients experience and process other emotionally evocative stimuli differently from healthy participants. To investigate this, we measured the cardiac and subjective responses of 33 male patients (9 with and 24 without antipsychotic medication) and 40 male control subjects to emotion-eliciting pictures. Cardiac responses were chosen as an outcome measure because previous research has indicated that these are linked with attentional and emotional processes and provide a more objective measure than self-report measures alone. The differences in cardiac responses between patients and controls were limited to medicated patients: only the medicated patients showed significantly decreased cardiac orienting responses compared with control subjects, regardless of picture contents. These results indicate that medicated patients directed less attention towards emotion-eliciting pictures than controls. Decreased attentional resources while processing emotional evocative stimuli could lead to incorrect appraisals of the environment and may have detrimental emotional and social consequences, contributing to chronic stress levels and an increased risk for cardiovascular disease.