Poor facial recognition hints at schizophrenia risk in children

Published on February 14, 2013 at 9:15 AM · 1 Comment

By Lucy Piper, Senior medwireNews Reporter

Impaired facial emotion recognition may suggest an increased vulnerability to schizophrenia in children, and may therefore represent a target for early intervention, researchers report.

They found that children with multiple antecedents of schizophrenia commonly misattributed neutral expressions to faces displaying other emotions and were more likely than typically developing children to mislabel a neutral expression as sad.

"The inability to accurately discriminate subtle differences in facial emotion and the misinterpretation of neutral expressions as sad may contribute to the initiation and/or persistence of PLEs [psychotic-like experiences]," say Hannah Dickson (Institute of Psychiatry, London, UK) and colleagues.

"Interventions that are effective in teaching adults to recognize emotions in faces could potentially benefit children presenting with antecedents of schizophrenia."

The team used an established facial emotion recognition task (ER40) to study the abilities of 34 children aged 9 to 14 years old who presented with a triad of well-replicated antecedents for schizophrenia, including motor and/or speech delays, clinically relevant internalizing and/or externalizing problems, and psychotic-like experiences.

These children, compared with 34 typically developing children without these antecedents, found it more difficult to interpret facial emotions.

They were more likely to misattribute other emotions as "sad" expressions, in an average 2.5% of responses versus 1.4% for controls, as well as misattribute other emotions as "neutral" expressions, in an average 3.9% of responses versus 2.5 %.

Angry expressions were mislabeled as other emotions by the children with schizophrenia antecedents in an average 4.0% of responses compared with just 3.0% of responses for controls, while neutral expressions were mislabeled as other emotions in an average 1.7% of responses versus 0.8%.

The children with schizophrenia antecedents also mislabeled 70% of neutral expressions as "sad," compared with a corresponding 40% for controls.

These mislabeling and misattribution of facial emotions may "represent early risk markers for the later development of schizophrenia," the researchers write in Schizophrenia Bulletin.

They conclude: "These impairments may represent targets for preventive interventions, which may in turn facilitate generalized improvements in social and emotional functioning among individuals at risk for schizophrenia."

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Comments
  1. Stefan Andersson Stefan Andersson Sweden says:

    Can the exposure to stimulus (non-verbal) - stimulus (verbal) contingencies (classical conditioning) when you with a short delay are able to restore a verbal message or interpret what subjectively seems to be a verbal message contribute to a tendency to interpret what people normally ignore? (A tendency to interpret what people normally ignore may have such a profound effect that some people develop a mental illness!)

    Can poor facial recognition (impaired facial emotion recognition) like a hearing impairment or sensory deprivation increase the need to access a verbal message and will this increase exposure to stimulus (non-verbal) – stimulus (verbal) contingencies like these?

    Classical conditioning (also referred to as pavlovian or respondent conditioning) can be the result of stimulus (non-verbal) - stimulus (verbal) contingencies like these and may cause the need to access a verbal message in response to non-verbal environmental sounds while operant conditioning is the result of response - stimulus contingencies and what generates our ability to satisfy the need to access a verbal message.

    In other words to frequently be forced to restore a verbal message due to a hearing loss may cause the need to access a verbal message in response to non-verbal environmental sounds (1) and the need to access what you learn to expect can motivate a behaviour which satisfies the need to access a verbal message (2). (Hearing impairments are, as expected, important risk factors for schizophrenia... )

    1.) Any signal that consistently precedes a meal, such as a clock indicating that it is time for dinner or an appetizer, may cause us to feel hungrier than before the signal because we learn to expect a meal in response to CS (CS will eventually predict the arrival of food) and non-verbal environmental sounds that consistently precedes a verbal illusion (information) can like any signal that consistently precedes a meal become a conditioned reinforcer that can activate a drive representation D.

    2.) Operant or instrumental conditioning is a form of learning in which an individual's behaviour is modified by its consequences and it involves learning to make a response in order to obtain a reward or avoid something unpleasant. What you learn to expect or predict in response to a signal that consistently precedes a reinforcer can motivate an operant behaviour which has been established and fine tuned because it satisfies the need to access what you learn to expect or makes it possible to avoid what you learn to expect.

The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of News-Medical.Net.
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