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Psychiatry Res. 2012 Jan 30;195(1-2):9-17. doi: 10.1016/j.psychres.2011.07.017. Epub 2011 Jul 30.

Face and body perception in schizophrenia: a configural processing deficit?

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Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience, Dept. of Neuropsychology, Faculty of Psychology, Universitätsstraße 150, Ruhr-University Bochum, Germany.


Face and body perception rely on common processing mechanisms and activate similar but not identical brain networks. Patients with schizophrenia show impaired face perception, and the present study addressed for the first time body perception in this group. Seventeen patients diagnosed with schizophrenia or schizoaffective disorder were compared to 17 healthy controls on standardized tests assessing basic face perception skills (identity discrimination, memory for faces, recognition of facial affect). A matching-to-sample task including emotional and neutral faces, bodies and cars either in an upright or in an inverted position was administered to assess potential category-specific performance deficits and impairments of configural processing. Relative to healthy controls, schizophrenia patients showed poorer performance on the tasks assessing face perception skills. In the matching-to-sample task, they also responded more slowly and less accurately than controls, regardless of the stimulus category. Accuracy analysis showed significant inversion effects for faces and bodies across groups, reflecting configural processing mechanisms; however reaction time analysis indicated evidence of reduced inversion effects regardless of category in schizophrenia patients. The magnitude of the inversion effects was not related to clinical symptoms. Overall, the data point towards reduced configural processing, not only for faces but also for bodies and cars in individuals with schizophrenia.

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