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Curr Psychiatry Rev. 2006 Nov;2(4):431-438.

Trait vs. State Markers for Schizophrenia: Identification and Characterization through Visual Processes.

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  • 1Department of Psychiatry, Harvard Medical School, USA.


One central issue in schizophrenia research is to identify and characterize behavioral and biological markers that are intrinsic to the complex psychiatric disorder and that can serve as targets for detection, treatment, and prevention. A trait marker represents the properties of the behavioral and biological processes that play an antecedent, possibly causal, role in the pathophysiology of the psychiatric disorder, whereas a state marker reflects the status of clinical manifestations in patients. Certain visual functions, while deficient in schizophrenia, may be independent of psychosis. The question of what types of visual functions can serve as trait or state markers is beginning to be understood. Examining clinically unaffected relatives of schizophrenia patients and patients with bipolar disorder can provide information about the relationship between a schizophrenic disposition and visual response traits. In this effort, researchers found that motion integration is dysfunctional in schizophrenia patients but not in their relatives or bipolar patients, whereas motion discrimination is dysfunctional in schizophrenia patients and their relatives, but not in bipolar patients. By synthesizing these findings, this review suggests that distinguishing enduring trait markers from transient state markers for schizophrenia through visual processes is helpful for developing neurobiologically and psychologically based intervention strategies.

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