The British Journal of Psychiatry

Abstract

Background Epidemiological studies of schizophrenia suggest that this disorder has a substantial genetic component. Cognitive and social abilities, as well as the volumes of brain regions involved in emotion processing, have been found to be distributed along a continuum when comparing patients, siblings and controls, with siblings showing intermediate scores.

Aims To establish whether facial expression recognition is impaired in unaffected siblings of patients.

Method Emotion and gender recognition were evaluated in a three-group pre—post study design in drugnaive patients with first-episode schizophrenia (n=40) and their unaffected siblings (n=30) compared with controls (n=26).

Results Patients and their healthy siblings showed impaired emotion recognition but normal gender recognition compared with controls. Patients’performance did not improve despite effective clinical stabilisation.

Conclusions Impaired performance in healthy siblings and time stability in patients provides evidence of impairment of facial emotion recognition as an actual phenotype of schizophrenia.

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