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eISSN: 1643-3750

When does Subliminal Affective Image Priming Influence the Ability of Schizophrenic Patients to Perceive Face Emotions?

Lucia Maria Vaina, Kunjan D. Rana, Ionela Cotos, Chen Li-Yang, Melissa A. Huang, Delia Podea

Brain and Vision Research Laboratory, Department of Biomedical Engineering, Boston University, Boston, MA, USA

Med Sci Monit 2014; 20:2788-2798

DOI: 10.12659/MSM.893118

Available online:

Published: 2014-12-24


Background: Deficits in face emotion perception are among the most pervasive aspects of schizophrenia impairments which strongly affects interpersonal communication and social skills.
Material and Methods: Schizophrenic patients (PSZ) and healthy control subjects (HCS) performed 2 psychophysical tasks. One, the SAFFIMAP test, was designed to determine the impact of subliminally presented affective or neutral images on the accuracy of face-expression (angry or neutral) perception. In the second test, FEP, subjects saw pictures of face-expression and were asked to rate them as angry, happy, or neutral. The following clinical scales were used to determine the acute symptoms in PSZ: Positive and Negative Syndrome (PANSS), Young Mania Rating (YMRS), Hamilton Depression (HAM-D), and Hamilton Anxiety (HAM-A).
Results: On the SAFFIMAP test, different from the HCS group, the PSZ group tended to categorize the neutral expression of test faces as angry and their response to the test-face expression was not influenced by the affective content of the primes. In PSZ, the PANSS-positive score was significantly correlated with correct perception of angry faces for aggressive or pleasant primes. YMRS scores were strongly correlated with PSZ’s tendency to recognize angry face expressions when the prime was a pleasant or a neutral image. The HAM-D score was positively correlated with categorizing the test-faces as neutral, regardless of the affective content of the prime or of the test-face expression (angry or neutral).
Conclusions: Despite its exploratory nature, this study provides the first evidence that conscious perception and categorization of facial emotions (neutral or angry) in PSZ is directly affected by their positive or negative symptoms of the disease as defined by their individual scores on the clinical diagnostic scales.

Keywords: Affect, Adult, Case-Control Studies, Facial Expression, Linear Models, Reproducibility of Results, Schizophrenia - diagnosis, Subliminal Stimulation, Task Performance and Analysis, Time Factors



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