Children at Risk for Schizophrenia Show Poor Facial-Emotion Recognition
Children at high risk for schizophrenia may have difficulty distinguishing subtle differences in facial emotions, but these children may benefit from early interventions that teach them how to recognize emotions in faces. Hannah Dickson, doctoral student at King’s College in London, and her colleagues reported these findings in the online January 31 Schizophrenia Bulletin.
The investigators assessed 34 children between the ages of nine and 14 who displayed symptoms that tend to precede schizophrenia, such as motor and speech delays, internalizing or externalizing problems, and psychotic-like experiences. They also examined 34 children who showed none of these symptoms.
Both groups of children completed an assessment that determined their ability to identify happy, sad, angry, fearful, or neutral expressions. Compared with typically developing children, children at high risk for schizophrenia presented with overall impairment in facial-emotion recognition. In addition, those at risk for schizophrenia often characterized neutral expressions as sad.
Together, these deficits might contribute to the initiation or persistence of psychotic-like episodes, the researchers said. They concluded that facial emotion recognition may be a target for early interventions that are similar to those used for adults with risk factors for schizophrenia.
1. Dickson H, Calkins ME, Kohler CG, et al. Misperceptions of facial emotions among youth aged 9-14 years who present multiple antecedents of schizophrenia. Schizophr Bull. 2013 Jan 31;[Epub ahead of print].