Remediation of facial emotion perception in schizophrenia: Concomitant changes in visual attention

Macquarie Centre for Cognitive Science, Macquarie University, Sydney, NSW, 2109, Australia.
Schizophrenia Research (Impact Factor: 3.92). 07/2008; 103(1-3):248-56. DOI: 10.1016/j.schres.2008.04.033
Source: PubMed


The study examined changes in visual attention in schizophrenia following training with a social-cognitive remediation package designed to improve facial emotion recognition (the Micro-Expression Training Tool; METT). Forty out-patients with schizophrenia were randomly allocated to active training (METT; n=26), or repeated exposure (RE; n=14); all completed an emotion recognition task with concurrent eye movement recording. Emotion recognition accuracy was significantly improved in the METT group, and this effect was maintained after one week. Immediately following training, the METT group directed more eye movements within feature areas of faces (i.e., eyes, nose, mouth) compared to the RE group. The number of fixations directed to feature areas of faces was positively associated with emotion recognition accuracy prior to training. After one week, the differences between METT and RE groups in viewing feature areas of faces were reduced to trends. However, within group analyses of the METT group revealed significantly increased number of fixations to, and dwell time within, feature areas following training which were maintained after one week. These results provide the first evidence that improvements in emotion recognition following METT training are associated with changes in visual attention to the feature areas of emotional faces. These findings support the contribution of visual attention abnormalities to emotion recognition impairment in schizophrenia, and suggest that one mechanism for improving emotion recognition involves re-directing visual attention to relevant features of emotional faces.

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    • "rbances . Therefore , remediation techniques which train participants to focus on the correct areas of the face may be beneficial in AN . These techniques have proven useful in other psychiatric conditions such as schizophrenia , with trained individuals demonstrating an improvement in attention to salient facial features and emotion recognition ( Russell et al . , 2008 ; Marsh et al . , 2012 ) . Furthermore , the majority of deficits reported in the current study were specific to the processing of self - images in AN ."
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    • "One of the ways of coping with stress is to employ strategies. There is evidence that psychological interventions that deal with focusing attention and gaining control over mental experiences such as auditory hallucinations can reduce distress caused by symptoms (Shergill et al., 1998; Russell et al., 2008; Marsh et al., 2010). However, impaired cognitive performance may hamper this effort. "
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    • "happy). Russell et al. (2008) and Marsh et al. (2012) evaluated changes in visual scanpath after applying the remediation program METT, which trains affect recognition via explicit attention-shaping processes. In accordance with the results of our study, improvements in performance were accompanied by changes in the fixation patterns, but both aspects were uncorrelated. "
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