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Schizophr Res. 2003 Feb 1;59(2-3):199-209.

Visual backward-masking deficits in schizophrenia: relationship to visual pathway function and symptomatology.

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  • 1Program in Cognitive Neuroscience and Schizophrenia, Nathan Kline Institute for Psychiatric Research, 140 Old Orangeburg Rd, Orangeburg, NY 10962, USA.


Patients with schizophrenia have information processing deficits which can be measured using visual backward-masking (VBM) tasks. There are two types of visual pathways: transient and sustained. The former is more sensitive to low spatial frequency (LSF) and the latter to high spatial frequency (HSF) stimuli. It has been hypothesized that the VBM deficit in schizophrenia is due to an overactive transient channel response to the mask. To examine this hypothesis, patients with schizophrenia and comparison volunteers were tested on a traditional backward-masking task as well as on tasks that altered the mask to bias stimulation toward transient (LSF) or sustained (HSF) channels. Medication effects and relationship to symptomatology were also examined. Patients with schizophrenia showed a significant deficit on the traditional backward-masking task and were also significantly impaired on the LSF- and HSF-masking tasks, though a differential deficit was not found on the latter two tasks. A U-shaped function, indicative of masking by interruption, was found on the LSF- and HSF-masking tasks. Masking performance was not altered when the same patients were tested on and off medication, and performance was related to positive and negative symptoms. In conclusion, the finding of a deficit in patients with schizophrenia on tasks producing a U-shaped function suggests that an aberrant transient response to the mask is producing increased interruption of the sustained response to the target.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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