Emotion Recognition Deficits as a Neurocognitive Marker of Schizophrenia Liability

  • Renata Schoeman
  • Dana J. H. Niehaus
  • Liezl Koen
  • Jukka M. Leppänen


Schizophrenia is a heterogeneous psychiatric disorder with a strong heritable component. However, to date, no single gene, cellular or molecular marker has consistently been identifi ed to be associated with this illness. Rather, it appears more likely that schizophrenia develops as a consequence of contributions from multiple susceptibility genes acting in concert with environmental factors. It is therefore argued that the use of endophenotypes could play a valuable role in the understanding of this complex illness. The endophenotype approach seeks to identify very specifi c aspects/syndromes of a disorder, link them to candidate genes, and thereby explicate the more complex phenomenon by breaking it down into salient units that may be more amenable to rigorous scientifi c investigation. In this chapter a potential role for defi ciency of facial affect recognition as a candidate neurocognitive marker and endophenotype in schizophrenia is discussed. Key components of endophenotypes are the heritability and stability of the trait under investigation. Considerable evidence linking defi cits in face and emotion processing to possible heritability exists, with schizophrenia sufferers as well as close genetic relatives exhibiting similar defi ciencies. Furthermore, the trait appears to be stable over the course of the illness and fairly specifi c for the schizophrenia-spectrum disorders. The neural basis for emotion recognition defi cits, such as structural and functional abnormalities in occipital-temporal cortex (fusiform gyrus) and the amygdala, some of which have been found to be present even during the fi rst episode of schizophrenia or in unaffected relatives of schizophrenia patients, is also summarized. In conclusion, the potential utility of this and other neurocognitive markers of schizophrenia in the investigation of genetic determinants of the illness and identifi cation of individuals at risk is discussed.


Schizophrenia endophenotype neu-rocognition affect recognition facial expressions 


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • Renata Schoeman
    • 1
  • Dana J. H. Niehaus
    • 1
  • Liezl Koen
    • 1
  • Jukka M. Leppänen
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of PsychiatryUniversity of StellenboschSouth Africa
  2. 2.Department of PsychologyUniversity of TampereFinland

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