New research at the University of British Columbia on the role of visual processing in schizophrenia could open the door to earlier diagnosis of the illness and potential therapies.
“(Schizophrenics) may have difficulty with the simplest tasks like crossing the street safely, reading a map or using the correct change on the bus,” said Miriam Spering, lead author of a recent article in the Journal of Neuroscience.
“It occurred to me that many of those problems may be visual.”
Many patients struggle with simple visual tasks such as tracking a moving object in a video game and predicting its movements compared with normal subjects tested by Spering. “What we found was a bit of a surprise,” she said.
Impaired eye movement long known to be associated with the illness is not sufficient to explain the difference in performance.
Much of what we see is “constructed” by the brain, which integrates visual information from the eyes with a predictive image generated by the brain to confirm visual information, fill in gaps and process the motion of objects, she explained.
When schizophrenics fail to integrate the two images and the information in the brain conflicts with eye movements, their world is neither stable nor predictable.
Spering is optimistic that her finding will lead to a therapy to alleviate visual symptoms of schizophrenia.