Facial emotion processing in schizophrenia : no evidence for a deficit specific to negative emotions in a differential deficit design
Johnston, Patrick J., Devir, Holly, & Karayanidis, Frini (2006) Facial emotion processing in schizophrenia : no evidence for a deficit specific to negative emotions in a differential deficit design. Psychiatry Research, 143(1), pp. 51-61.
People with schizophrenia perform poorly when recognising facial expressions of emotion, particularly negative emotions such as fear. This finding has been taken as evidence of a “negative emotion specific deficit”, putatively associated with a dysfunction in the limbic system, particularly the amygdala. An alternative explanation is that greater difficulty in recognising negative emotions may reflect a priori differences in task difficulty. The present study uses a differential deficit design to test the above argument. Facial emotion recognition accuracy for seven emotion categories was compared across three groups. Eighteen schizophrenia patients and one group of healthy age- and gender-matched controls viewed identical sets of stimuli. A second group of 18 age- and gender-matched controls viewed a degraded version of the same stimuli. The level of stimulus degradation was chosen so as to equate overall level of accuracy to the schizophrenia patients. Both the schizophrenia group and the degraded image control group showed reduced overall recognition accuracy and reduced recognition accuracy for fearful and sad facial stimuli compared with the intact-image control group. There were no differences in recognition accuracy for any emotion category between the schizophrenia group and the degraded image control group. These findings argue against a negative emotion specific deficit in schizophrenia.
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