Facial emotion recognition in paranoid schizophrenia and autism spectrum disorder
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Schizophrenia (SZ) and autism spectrum disorder (ASD) share deficits in emotion processing. In order to identify convergent and divergent mechanisms, we investigated facial emotion recognition in SZ, high-functioning ASD (HFASD), and typically developed controls (TD). Different degrees of task difficulty and emotion complexity (face, eyes; basic emotions, complex emotions) were used. Two Benton tests were implemented in order to elicit potentially confounding visuo-perceptual functioning and facial processing. Nineteen participants with paranoid SZ, 22 with HFASD and 20 TD were included, aged between 14 and 33. years. Individuals with SZ were comparable to TD in all obtained emotion recognition measures, but showed reduced basic visuo-perceptual abilities. The HFASD group was impaired in the recognition of basic and complex emotions compared to both, SZ and TD. When facial identity recognition was adjusted for, group differences remained for the recognition of complex emotions only. Our results suggest that there is a SZ subgroup with predominantly paranoid symptoms that does not show problems in face processing and emotion recognition, but visuo-perceptual impairments. They also confirm the notion of a general facial and emotion recognition deficit in HFASD. No shared emotion recognition deficit was found for paranoid SZ and HFASD, emphasizing the differential cognitive underpinnings of both disorders.
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