Visual scan paths are abnormal in deluded schizophrenics

Neuropsychologia. 1997 Jan;35(1):99-105. doi: 10.1016/s0028-3932(96)00061-9.


One explanation for delusion formation is that they result from distorted appreciation of complex stimuli. The study investigated delusions in schizophrenia using a physiological marker of visual attention and information processing, the visual scan path-a map tracing the direction and duration of gaze when an individual views a stimulus. The aim was to demonstrate the presence of a specific deficit in processing meaningful stimuli (e.g. human faces) in deluded schizophrenics (DS) by relating this to abnormal viewing strategies. Visual scan paths were measured in acutely-deluded (n = 7) and non-deluded (n = 7) schizophrenics matched for medication, illness duration and negative symptoms, plus 10 age-matched normal controls. DS employed abnormal strategies for viewing single faces and face pairs in a recognition task, staring at fewer points and fixating non-feature areas to a significantly greater extent than both control groups (P < 0.05). The results indicate that DS direct their attention to less salient visual information when viewing faces. Future paradigms employing more complex stimuli and testing DS when less-deluded will allow further clarification of the relationship between viewing strategies and delusions.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Attention / physiology
  • Cognition / physiology
  • Delusions / psychology*
  • Eye Movements / physiology*
  • Female
  • Fixation, Ocular / physiology
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mental Processes*
  • Psychiatric Status Rating Scales
  • Schizophrenic Psychology*
  • Visual Fields / physiology
  • Visual Perception / physiology*