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Schizophr Bull. 2012 May;38(3):599-607. doi: 10.1093/schbul/sbq141. Epub 2010 Dec 1.

The McCollough effect and facial emotion discrimination in patients with schizophrenia and their unaffected relatives.

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  • 1Department of Psychosis Studies, Institute of Psychiatry, King’s College London, PO Box 69, De Crespigny Park, London SE5 9AF, UK.


Abnormalities in visual processing have been found consistently in schizophrenia patients, including deficits in early visual processing, perceptual organization, and facial emotion recognition. There is however no consensus as to whether these abnormalities represent heritable illness traits and what their contribution is to psychopathology. Fifty patients with schizophrenia, 61 of their first-degree healthy relatives, and 50 psychiatrically healthy volunteers were tested with regard to facial affect (FA) discrimination and susceptibility to develop the color-contingent illusion [the McCollough Effect (ME)]. Both patients and relatives demonstrated significantly lower accuracy in FA discrimination compared with controls. There was also a significant effect of familiality: Participants from the same families had more similar accuracy scores than those who belonged to different families. Experiments with the ME showed that schizophrenia patients required longer time to develop the illusion than relatives and controls, which indicated poor visual adaptation in schizophrenia. Relatives were marginally slower than controls. There was no significant association between the measures of FA discrimination accuracy and ME in any of the participant groups. Facial emotion discrimination was associated with the degree of interpersonal problems, as measured by the Schizotypal Personality Questionnaire in relatives and healthy volunteers, whereas the ME was associated with the perceptual-cognitive symptoms of schizotypy and positive symptoms of schizophrenia. Our results support the heritability of FA discrimination deficits as a trait and indicate visual adaptation abnormalities in schizophrenia, which are symptom related.

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