Patients with schizophrenia have been reported to demonstrate subtle impairment in gaze processing, which in some cases indicates hypersensitivity to gaze, while in others, hyposensitivity. The neural correlate of gaze processing is situated in the superior temporal sulcus (STS), a major portion of which is constituted by the superior temporal gyrus (STG), and may be the underlying dysfunctional neural basis to the abnormal gaze sensitivity in schizophrenia. To identify the characteristics of gaze behavior in patients with chronic schizophrenia, in whom the STG has been reported to be smaller in volume, we tested 22 patients (mean duration of illness 29 years) in a spatial cueing paradigm using two central pictorial gaze cues, both of which effectively triggered attentional orienting in 22 age-matched normal controls. Arrow cues were also employed to determine whether any compromise in schizophrenia, if present, was gaze-specific. Results demonstrated that schizophrenic subjects benefit significantly less from congruent cues than normal subjects, which was evident for gaze cues but not for arrow cues. This finding is suggestive of a relatively gaze-specific hyposensitivity in patients with chronic schizophrenia, a finding that is in line with their clinical symptomatology and that may be associated with a hypoactive STS.
ASJC Scopus subject areas