Facial-affect recognition and visual scanning behaviour in the course of schizophrenia

Schizophr Res. 1997 Apr 11;24(3):311-7. doi: 10.1016/s0920-9964(96)00126-0.


The performance of schizophrenic in-patients in facial expression identification was assessed in an acute phase and in a partly remitted phase of the illness. During visual exploration of the face stimuli, the patient's eye movements were recorded using an infrared-corneal-reflection technique. Compared to healthy controls, patients demonstrated a significant deficit in facial-affect recognition. In addition, schizophrenics differed from controls in several eye movement parameters such as length of mean scan path and mean duration of fixation. Both the facial-affect recognition deficit and the eye movement abnormalities remained stable over time. However, performance in facial-affect recognition and eye movement abnormalities were not correlated. Patients with flattened affect showed relatively selective scan pattern characteristics. In contrast, affective flattening was not correlated with performance in facial-affect recognition. Dosage of neuroleptic medication did not affect the results. The main findings of the study suggest that schizophrenia is associated with disturbances in primarily unrelated neurocognitive operations mediating visuomotor processing and facial expression analysis. Given their time stability, the disturbances might have a trait-like character.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Affect*
  • Eye Movements*
  • Facial Expression
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Matched-Pair Analysis
  • Middle Aged
  • Schizophrenia / physiopathology
  • Schizophrenic Psychology*
  • Visual Perception*