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Am J Psychiatry. 2001 Sep;158(9):1429-36.

Disturbed facial affect recognition in patients with schizophrenia associated with hypoactivity in distributed brain regions: a magnetoencephalographic study.

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Department of Psychiatry, University of Düsseldorf, Germany.



The authors sought to identify brain mechanisms underlying the well-documented facial affect recognition deficit in patients with schizophrenia. Since this deficit is stable over the course of the illness and relatively specific for schizophrenic disorders, it was expected that knowledge about the related brain mechanisms would provide substantial information about the pathophysiology of the illness.


Fifteen partly remitted schizophrenic inpatients and 12 healthy volunteers categorized facial expressions of emotion and performed two control tasks while magnetoencephalographic recordings were done by means of a 148-channel whole head system, which revealed foci of high cerebral activity and their evolution in time. Anatomical sites were defined through coregistrated magnetic resonance images.


The magnetoencephalography data recorded in response to facial expressions of emotion revealed that patients generated weaker activations (primary current density) in inferior prefrontal, temporal, occipital, and inferior parietal areas at circumscribed latencies. Group differences did not occur in basic visual areas during a first sensory-related activation between 60 and 120 msec. Behavioral performance was associated with strength of activation in inferior prefrontal areas, the right posterior fusiform gyrus region, right anterior temporal cortex, and the right inferior parietal cortex.


Disturbed facial affect recognition in schizophrenic patients might be a result of hypoactivity in distributed brain regions, some of them previously related to the pathophysiology of schizophrenic disorders. These regions are probably working within a spatially and temporally defined circuitry.

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