Role of Visual Integration in Gaze Perception and Emotional Intelligence in Schizophrenia

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Individuals with schizophrenia demonstrate a wide range of social cognitive deficits that significantly compromise functioning. Early visual processing is frequently disrupted in schizophrenia, and growing evidence suggests a role of perceptual dysfunctions in socioemotional functioning in the disorder. This study examined visual integration (the ability to effectively integrate individual, local visual features into a holistic representation), a target construct of basic perception identified by the Cognitive Neuroscience Treatment Research to Improve Cognition in Schizophrenia initiative, and its relationship with eye- contact perception and emotional intelligence in schizophrenia.


Twenty-nine participants with schizophrenia (SCZ) and 23 healthy controls (HC) completed tasks measuring visual integration (Coherent Motion Task, Contour Integration Task), an eye-contact perception task, and a measure of emotional intelligence.


SCZ participants showed compromised visual integration as suggested by poorer performance on the Contour Integration Task relative to HC. Visual integration was a significant predictor of eye-contact perception and emotional intelligence among SCZ. The amounts of variances in these 2 social cognitive areas accounted for by visual integration were comparable to and overlapped with those accounted for by the diagnosis of schizophrenia.


Individuals with schizophrenia showed compromised visual integration, and this may play a significant role in the observed deficits in higher level processing of social information in the disorder.

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