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Journal Article

Adaptive sensory coding of gaze direction in schizophrenia


Seymour,  KJ
Max Planck Institute for Biological Cybernetics, Max Planck Society;

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Palmer, C., Caruana, N., Clifford, C., & Seymour, K. (2018). Adaptive sensory coding of gaze direction in schizophrenia. Royal Society Open Science, 5(12): 180886, pp. 1-13. doi:10.1098/rsos.180886.

Cite as: https://hdl.handle.net/21.11116/0000-0007-82D6-4
Schizophrenia has been associated with differences in how the visual system processes sensory input. A fundamental mechanism that regulates sensory processing in the brain is gain control, whereby the responses of sensory neurons to a given stimulus are modulated in accordance with the spatial and temporal context. Some studies indicate an impairment of certain cortical gain control mechanisms in schizophrenia in low-level vision, reflected, for instance, in how the visual appearance of a stimulus is affected by the presence of other stimuli around it. In the present study, we investigated higher-level, social vision in schizophrenia, namely the perception of other people's direction of gaze (i.e. a type of face processing). Recent computational modelling work indicates that perceptual aftereffects-changes in perception that occur following repeated exposure to faces that display a specific direction of gaze-are indicative of two distinct forms of gain control involved in the coding of gaze direction across sensory neurons. We find that individuals with schizophrenia display strong perceptual aftereffects following repeated exposure to faces with averted gaze, and a modelling analysis indicates similarly robust gain control in the form of (i) short-term adjustment of channel sensitivities in response to the recent sensory history and (ii) divisive normalization of the encoded gaze direction. Together, this speaks to the typical coding of other people's direction of gaze in the visual system in schizophrenia, including flexible gain control, despite the social-cognitive impairments that can occur in this condition.