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Schizophr Res. 2003 Oct 1;63(3):273-84.

The magnocellular visual system and schizophrenia: what can the color red tell us?

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Psychology Department, University of Georgia, Athens, GA 30602, USA.


Previous research has suggested that genetic loading for schizophrenia is related to a dysfunctional magnocellular (M) subcortical visual pathway-responsible for processing movement and location. However, data substantiating this mechanism remains inconclusive. The present study used a novel technique to selectively suppress the M system in order to investigate the impact of genetic loading for schizophrenia on its functioning. A visual backward masking task was administered to 28 healthy first-degree relatives of persons with schizophrenia and 31 healthy controls. The task was administered on both a red and neutral background, as diffuse red light has been shown to selectively suppress the M system in basic vision research. On a location condition of backward masking, controls demonstrated reduced accuracy on the red compared to the neutral background. In contrast, relatives did not display differential performance between the two backgrounds. The differential effect on the two groups appears to be attributable to a difference in activity of the M pathway. Performance in the relatives was consistent with the notion of a hyperactive M pathway.

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