Perceptions are inherently probabilistic; and can be potentially manipulated to induce illusory experience by the presentation of ambiguous or improbable evidence under selective (spatio-temporal) constraints. Accordingly, perception of the McGurk effect, by which individuals misperceive specific incongruent visual and auditory vocal cues, rests upon effective probabilistic inference. Here, we report findings from a behavioral investigation of illusory perception and related metacognitive evaluation during audiovisual integration, conducted in individuals with schizophrenia (n = 30) and control subjects (n = 24) matched in terms of age, sex, handedness and parental occupation. Controls additionally performed the task after an oral dose of amisulpride (400 mg). Individuals with schizophrenia were observed to exhibit illusory perception less frequently than controls, despite non-significant differences in perceptual performance during control conditions. Furthermore, older individuals with schizophrenia exhibited reduced rates of illusory perception. Subsequent analysis revealed a robust inverse relationship between illness chronicity and the illusory perception rate in this group. Controls demonstrated non-significant modulation of perception by amisulpride; amisulpride was, however, found to elicit increases in subjective confidence in perceptual performance. Overall, these findings are consistent with the idea that impairments in probabilistic inference are exhibited in schizophrenia and exacerbated by illness chronicity. The latter suggests that associated processes are a potentially worthwhile target for therapeutic intervention.
Compared to unaffected observers patients with schizophrenia (SZ) show characteristic differences in visual perception, including a reduced susceptibility to the influence of context on judgments of contrast - a manifestation of weaker surround suppression (SS). To examine the generality of this phenomenon we measured the ability of 24 individuals with SZ to judge the luminance, contrast, orientation, and size of targets embedded in contextual surrounds that would typically influence the targets appearance. Individuals with SZ demonstrated weaker SS compared to matched controls for stimuli defined by contrast or size, but not for those defined by luminance or orientation. As perceived luminance is thought to be regulated at the earliest stages of visual processing our findings are consistent with a suppression deficit that is predominantly cortical in origin. In addition, we propose that preserved orientation SS in SZ may reflect the sparing of broadly tuned mechanisms of suppression. We attempt to reconcile these data with findings from previous studies.
Detection of visual contours (strings of small oriented elements) is markedly poor in schizophrenia. This has previously been attributed to an inability to group local information across space into a global percept. Here, we show that this failure actually originates from a combination of poor encoding of local orientation and abnormal processing of visual context.
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