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Assessing early processing of eye gaze in schizophrenia: measuring the cone of direct gaze and reflexive orienting of attention

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Seymour, K., Rhodes, G., McGuire, J., Williams, N., Jeffery, L., & Langdon, R. (2017). Assessing early processing of eye gaze in schizophrenia: measuring the cone of direct gaze and reflexive orienting of attention. Cognitive Neuropsychiatry, 22(2), 122-136. doi:10.1080/13546805.2017.1285755.


Cite as: http://hdl.handle.net/21.11116/0000-0007-82E6-2
Abstract
Introduction: The accurate discrimination of another person's eye-gaze direction is vital as it provides a cue to the gazer's focus of attention, which in turn supports joint attention. Patients with schizophrenia have shown a "direct gaze bias" when judging gaze direction. However, current tasks do not dissociate an early perceptual bias from high-level top-down effects. We investigated early stages of gaze processing in schizophrenia by measuring perceptual sensitivity to fine deviations in gaze direction (i.e., the cone of direct gaze: CoDG) and ability to reflexively orient to locations cued by the same deviations. Methods: Twenty-four patients and 26 controls completed a CoDG discrimination task that used realistic direct-face images with six fine degrees of deviation (i.e., 3, 6 or 9 pixels to the left and right) and direct gaze, and a gaze cueing task that assessed reflexive orienting to the same fine-grained deviations. Results: Our data showed patients exhibited no impairment in gaze discrimination, nor did we observe a reduced orienting response. Conclusions: These results suggest that while patients may suffer deficits associated with interpreting another person's gaze, the earliest processes concerned with detecting averted gaze and reflexively orienting to the gazed-at location are intact.