Visual attention to emotional face in schizophrenia: an eye tracking study.

  • Mania Asgharpour Mail Institute for Cognitive Science Studies (ICSS), Tehran, Iran ; Department of Psychology Azad University, Karaj Branch, Tehran, Iran
  • Mehdi Tehrani-Doost Department of Psychiatry, Roozbeh Psychiatry Hospital, Tehran University of Medical sciences, Tehran, Iran ; Institute for Cognitive Science Studies (ICSS), Tehran, Iran
  • Mehrnoosh Ahmadi Department of Psychiatry, Roozbeh Psychiatry Hospital, Tehran University of Medical sciences, Tehran, Iran
  • Hamid Moshki Institute for Cognitive Science Studies (ICSS), Tehran, Iran
Attention, Emotional Face Perception, Schizophrenia


Objective: Deficits in the processing of facial emotions have been reported extensively in patients with schizophrenia. To explore whether restricted attention is the cause of impaired emotion processing in these patients, we examined visual attention through tracking eye movements in response to emotional and neutral face stimuli in a group of patients with schizophrenia and healthy individuals. We also examined the correlation between visual attention allocation and symptoms severity in our patient group.
Thirty adult patients with schizophrenia and 30 matched healthy controls participated in this study. Visual attention data were recorded while participants passively viewed emotional-neutral face pairs for 500 ms. The relationship between the visual attention and symptoms severity were assessed by the Positive and Negative Syndrome Scale (PANSS) in the schizophrenia group. Repeated Measures ANOVAs were used to compare the groups.
Comparing the number of fixations made during face-pairs presentation, we found that patients with schizophrenia made fewer fixations on faces, regardless of the expression of the face. Analysis of the number of fixations on negative-neutral pairs also revealed that the patients made fewer fixations on both neutral and negative faces. Analysis of number of fixations on positive-neutral pairs only showed more fixations on positive relative to neutral expressions in both groups. We found no correlations between visual attention pattern to faces and symptom severity in schizophrenic patients.
The results of this study suggest that the facial recognition deficit in schizophrenia is related to decreased attention to face stimuli. Finding of no difference in visual attention for positive-neutral face pairs between the groups is in line with studies that have shown increased ability to positive emotional perception in these patients.


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How to Cite
Asgharpour M, Tehrani-Doost M, Ahmadi M, Moshki H. Visual attention to emotional face in schizophrenia: an eye tracking study. Iran J Psychiatry. 10(1):13-8.