Noise as a mechanism of anomalous face processing among persons with Schizophrenia
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There is substantial evidence that people with Schizophrenia (SCZ) have altered visual perception and cognition, including impaired face processing. However, the mechanism(s) underlying this observation are not yet known. Eye movement studies have found that people with SCZ do not direct their gaze to the most informative regions of the face (e.g., the eyes). This suggests that SCZ patients may be less able to extract the most relevant face information and therefore have decreased calculation efficiency. In addition, research with non-face stimuli indicates that SCZ is associated with increased levels of internal noise. Importantly, both calculation efficiency and internal noise have been shown to underpin face perception among healthy observers. Therefore, the current study applies noise masking to upright and inverted faces to determine if face processing deficits among those with SCZ are the result of changes in calculation efficiency, internal noise, or both. Consistent with previous results, SCZ participants exhibited higher contrast thresholds in order to identify masked target faces. However, higher thresholds were associated with increases in internal noise but unrelated to changes in calculation efficiency. These results suggest that SCZ-related face processing deficits are the result of a decreased noise-to-signal ratio. The source of increased processing noise among these patients is unclear, but may emanate from abnormal neural dynamics.
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