Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Poor Facial-Emotion Recognition Can Signal Risk for Psychosis

Youth at high risk for schizophrenia may exhibit an inability to correctly interpret facial expressions—a trait that can exacerbate psychotic-like symptoms, but can also be targeted with early intervention efforts. That was the finding of a study published in Schizophrenia Bulletin January 31.

Researchers at Kings College, London, examined 34 children aged 9-14 who presented with symptoms known to be antecedents for schizophrenia—motor and speech delays, internalizing or externalizing problems, and psychotic-like experiences—and 34 typically developing children who presented with none of those antecedents. The children were given a test to assess correct recognition of happy, sad, angry, fearful, and neutral expressions.

Compared with the typically developing children, children with the risk factors for schizophrenia showed an overall impairment in facial-emotion recognition. They misattributed neutral expressions to faces displaying other emotions and more often mislabeled a neutral expression as sad compared with healthy peers. The researchers concluded that 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 psychotic-like experiences. “Interventions that are effective in teaching adults to recognize emotions in faces could potentially benefit children presenting with antecedents of schizophrenia,” they said.

To read more about recent research in schizophrenia, see Psychiatric News here. For the latest information on treating that disorder, see Clinical Manual for Treatment of Schizophrenia from American Psychiatric Publishing.

(Image: Kamil Macniak/shutterstock.com)


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