Increased face detection responses on the mooney faces test in people at clinical high risk for psychosis


Identifying state-sensitive measures of perceptual and cognitive processes implicated in psychosis may allow for objective, earlier, and better monitoring of changes in mental status that are predictive of an impending psychotic episode, relative to traditional self-report-based clinical measures. To determine whether a measure of visual perception that has demonstrated sensitivity to the clinical state of schizophrenia in multiple prior studies is sensitive to features of the at-risk mental state, we examined differences between young people identified as being at clinical high risk for psychosis (CHR; n = 37) and non-psychiatric matched controls ( n = 29) on the Mooney Faces Test (MFT). On each trial of the MFT, participants report whether they perceive a face in a degraded face image. The CHR group reported perceiving a greater number of faces in both upright and inverted MFT stimuli. Consistent with prior work, males reported more faces on the MFT than females in both conditions. However, the finding of greater reported face perception among CHR subjects was robustly observed in the female CHR group relative to the female control group. Among male CHR participants, greater reported face perception was related to increased perceptual abnormalities. These preliminary results are consistent with a small but growing literature suggesting that heightened perceptual sensitivity may characterize individuals at increased clinical risk for psychosis. Further studies are needed to determine the contributions of specific perceptual, cognitive, and motivational mechanisms to the findings.

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