Objective: There is accumulating evidence that schizophrenics may have deficits in facial recognition, which has been related to disease-specific disturbances in normal social interaction. Neurophysiologically, face inversion results in an amplitude increase of the event-related potential (ERP) component N170. This face inversion effect (FIE) presumably reflects a disruption of face-specific configuration processing. The present study investigated FIE and the associations between social functioning and N170 in patients with schizophrenia. Methods: The subjects consisted of 15 schizophrenics and 15 controls. Event-related potentials (ERPs) to upright and inverted neutral faces and cars were recorded. The relationships between the Social Functioning Scale (SFS) scores and N170 amplitude to upright faces or cars were also evaluated. Results: Normal controls exhibited a significant FIE of the N170 amplitude, while schizophrenics showed no FIE. In both normal controls and schizophrenics, no inversion effect was observed for car stimuli. For face stimuli, schizophrenics showed significant bilateral N170 reduction; additionally, in schizophrenics, but not in controls, the SFS was significantly correlated with N170 amplitudes to upright faces. Conclusions: These results indicate face-specific configuration processing deficits and significant associations between face-N170 reduction and social dysfunction in schizophrenia. Significance: Abnormal face-specific configuration processing may underlie some of the social dysfunctions in schizophrenia.
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