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

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Abstract

Background:

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.

Methods:

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.

Results:

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.

Conclusions:

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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