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October 21, 2005
Facial recognition and social function
Recent Schizophrenia Research Reviews, By Demian Rose, MD, PhD
Welcome to what I hope will become a regular presence at Schizophrenia.com, Recent Research Reviews. My intent with this column is to regularly summarize a new study that will help the casual reader attain a context for where the field of schizophrenia research is headed, and what the current data can tell us about this disease. To give you a little background about myself, I am finishing up a 4-year training program in psychiatry at the University of California at San Francisco, and have therefore had several years of experience working with people with schizophrenia in a variety of clinical settings. I have been interested in research for most of my academic career, and am currently piloting a study that aims to explore if social and emotional training can improve functioning in subjects with schizophrenia. My particular interest is exploring the boundaries between cognition (“thinking”) and emotion (“feeling”), as well as the ways in which the social functioning of people with schizophrenia might be affected by specific changes in the interplay between the brain systems underlying these phenomena.
“Facial Recognition and Social Cognition”, a summary review of:
Authored by: Wolwer W, Frommann N, Halfmann S, Piaszek A, Streit M, Gaebel W.
Who did the study:
Why they did the study:
Schizophrenics also tend to have specific deficits in non-social cognitive functioning, what the authors refer to as “cold cognition”. Cold cognition is the underpinning of what are called “executive tasks”, i.e. ones that require planning and flexibility to accomplish. Some examples would be keeping a budget or following a complicated conversation between several different people. Related deficits in the ability to sustain attention and certain types of memory are also commonly seen in people with schizophrenia.
What remains unclear to brain researchers is to what extent the cognitive and emotional deficits of schizophrenia are related, and to what extent they are separable. In other words: will improving one tend to improve the other, or will specific therapeutic interventions need to be established that specifically target the underlying brain domains of each? This study attempts to address this question by designing a training program that is specific to facial affect recognition and comparing it to a training program that is meant to specifically remediate cognitive deficits.
How they designed the study:
1) Those who would receive a 12-session (45 min each session, done twice per week for 6 weeks) facial affect recognition training program, called the TAR (“Training of Affect Recognition”).
There were no significant differences in age, intelligence or severity of illness between the three groups. All subjects performed a number of tests both before and within one week of completing treatment.
What they found:
1) There was a trend towards subjects who received training (TAR or CRT) to perform better on most tests, as compared to those subjects who received treatment as usual (TAU). This was likely due to non-specific aspects that were shared by both training protocols, e.g. increased time spent with subjects.
The Take Home Message:
Posted by Demian Rose at October 21, 2005 04:57 PM
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