Facial affect recognition in the course of schizophrenia

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Deficits in facial affect recognition have been shown repeatedly in schizophrenia. However, the stability of this deficit over time remains to be clarified. A total of 36 remitted, 32 acutely ill schizophrenic patients and 21 healthy volunteers participated in a cross-sectional and longitudinal study. All subjects were assessed twice within 4 weeks (acute schizophrenics and normal controls), or 12 weeks, respectively (remitted schizophrenics). Subjects had to identify six basic emotions from corresponding facial expressions shown as photographs on a video screen. Both acute and remitted schizophrenics demonstrated a stable deficit over time in facial affect recognition unrelated to psychopathology and medication. This suggests that deficits in facial affect recognition in schizophrenia reflect a trait-like, rather than a state-dependent, characteristic.