More threads by David Baxter PhD

David Baxter PhD

Late Founder
Facial affect recognition deficits occur before psychosis onset
By Liam Davenport
17 January 2008
Br J Psychiatry 2008; 192: 67-68

Deficits in the recognition of facial affect appear to occur before the onset of psychosis and may represent a vulnerability marker for the condition, conclude researchers.

Previous studies have demonstrated that patients with schizophrenia have deficits in both the identification and discrimination of facial affect at all stages of the condition. However, it is not clear whether such deficits are present in high-risk individuals, say Jean Addington, from the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, and colleagues.

To investigate further, the researchers studied 86 people at clinical high risk for psychosis, 50 patients with first episode psychosis, 53 patients with chronic schizophrenia, and 55 non-psychiatric controls.

The participants were administered the Facial Emotion Identification Test and the Facial Emotion Discrimination Test. The first test consisted of 19 faces depicting one of six different emotions displayed one at a time for 15 seconds, and the second comprised 30 paired photographs depicting one of six emotions, again displayed for 15 seconds.

There were significant differences between the groups in terms of age, with the patient groups significantly older than controls and the clinical high-risk group significantly younger. There were no differences between the patient groups and the high-risk group on the General Psychopathology Scales of the Positive and Negative Syndrome Scale for Schizophrenia.

The team found that the control group performed significantly better than patients and high-risk individuals on the identification task.

Patients performed significantly worse than controls on the discrimination task, with the performance of high-risk individuals falling in between that of the other groups, without differing significantly from either, the team reports in the British Journal of Psychiatry.

"It has been suggested that [facial affect recognition] deficits may be vulnerability factors in that subtle deficits in affect perception were detected in unaffected biological siblings with schizophrenia," the researchers say.

"Our study suggests that these deficits are present, before the full expression of a psychotic illness, in high-risk individuals of whom only about 25% will go on to develop a full-blown psychotic illness," they conclude.



I am curious about this since I get psychosis from time to time and take a neuroleptic, and one time during an art therapy session some years ago, my therapist explained that I had not had enough 'mirroring' from my mother - I think she said this because of the content of the session. This makes me wonder whether other people with psychosis had that experience too of a deficit in mirroring?
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