Background. Schizophrenia is associated with impaired visual information processing. The aim of this study was to investigate the relationship between anomalous perceptual experiences, positive and negative symptoms, perceptual organization, rapid categorization of natural images and magnocellular (M) and parvocellular (P) visual pathway functioning.
Method. Thirty-five unmedicated patients with schizophrenia and 20 matched healthy control volunteers participated. Anomalous perceptual experiences were assessed with the Bonn Scale for the Assessment Basic Symptoms (BSABS). General intellectual functions were evaluated with the revised version of the Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale. The 1–9 version of the Continuous Performance Test (CPT) was used to investigate sustained attention. The following psychophysical tests were used: detection of Gabor patches with collinear and orthogonal flankers (perceptual organization), categorization of briefly presented natural scenes (rapid visual processing), low-contrast and frequency-doubling vernier threshold (M pathway functioning), isoluminant colour vernier threshold and high spatial frequency discrimination (P pathway functioning).
Results. The patients with schizophrenia were impaired on test of perceptual organization, rapid visual processing and M pathway functioning. There was a significant correlation between BSABS scores, negative symptoms, perceptual organization, rapid visual processing and M pathway functioning. Positive symptoms, IQ, CPT and P pathway measures did not correlate with these parameters. The best predictor of the BSABS score was the perceptual organization deficit.
Conclusions. These results raise the possibility that multiple facets of visual information processing deficits can be explained by M pathway dysfunctions in schizophrenia, resulting in impaired attentional modulation of perceptual organization and of natural image categorization.