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The visual system is recognized as an important site of pathology and dysfunction in schizophrenia. In this study, we evaluated different visual perceptual functions in patients with psychotic disorders using a potentially clinically applicable task battery and assessed their relationship with symptom severity in patients, and with schizotypal features in healthy participants.
Five different areas of visual functioning were evaluated in patients with schizophrenia and schizoaffective disorder (n = 28) and healthy control subjects (n = 31) using a battery that included visuospatial working memory (VSWM), velocity discrimination (VD), contour integration, visual context processing, and backward masking tasks.
The patient group demonstrated significantly lower performance in VD, contour integration, and VSWM tasks. Performance did not differ between the two groups on the visual context processing task and did not differ across levels of interstimulus intervals in the backward masking task. Performances on VSWM, VD, and contour integration tasks were correlated with negative symptom severity but not with other symptom dimensions in the patient group. VSWM and VD performances were also correlated with negative sychizotypal features in healthy controls.
Taken together, these results demonstrate significant abnormalities in multiple visual processing tasks in patients with psychotic disorders, adding to the literature implicating visual abnormalities in these conditions. Furthermore, our results show that visual processing impairments are associated with the negative symptom dimension in patients as well as healthy individuals.
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