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Visual integration dysfunction in schizophrenia arises by the first psychotic episode and worsens with illness duration

Author(s): Keane, Brian P.; Paterno, Danielle; Kastner, Sabine; Silverstein, Steven M.

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Abstract: Visual integration dysfunction characterizes schizophrenia, but prior studies have not yet established whether the problem arises by the first psychotic episode or worsens with illness duration. To investigate the issue, we compared chronic schizophrenia patients (SZs), first episode psychosis patients (FEs), and well-matched healthy controls on a brief but sensitive psychophysical task in which subjects attempted to locate an integrated shape embedded in noise. Task difficulty depended on the number of noise elements co-presented with the shape. For half of the experiment, the entire display was scaled down in size to produce a high spatial frequency (HSF) condition, which has been shown to worsen patient integration deficits. Catch trials—in which the circular target appeared without noise—were also added so as to confirm that subjects were paying adequate attention. We found that controls integrated contours under noisier conditions than FEs, who, in turn, integrated better than SZs. These differences, which were at times large in magnitude (d=1.7), clearly emerged only for HSF displays. Catch trial accuracy was above 95% for each group and could not explain the foregoing differences. Prolonged illness duration predicted poorer HSF integration across patients, but age had little effect on controls, indicating that the former factor was driving the effect in patients. Taken together, a brief psychophysical task efficiently demonstrates large visual integration impairments in schizophrenia. The deficit arises by the first psychotic episode, worsens with illness duration, and may therefore serve as a biomarker of illness progression.
Publication Date: 2016
Electronic Publication Date: 2016
Citation: Keane, Brian P, Paterno, Danielle, Kastner, Sabine, Silverstein, Steven M. (2016). Visual integration dysfunction in schizophrenia arises by the first psychotic episode and worsens with illness duration. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 125 (4), 543 - 549. doi:10.1037/abn0000157
DOI: doi:10.1037/abn0000157
ISSN: 0021-843X
EISSN: 1939-1846
Pages: 543 - 549
Type of Material: Journal Article
Journal/Proceeding Title: Journal of Abnormal Psychology
Version: Author's manuscript

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