Preserved function of the fusiform face area in schizophrenia as revealed by fMRI.

Abstract

Many lines of evidence suggest that individuals with schizophrenia suffer from face processing deficits. However, the specificity of these deficits and the neural dysfunction underlying them remain unclear. To address these questions, we evaluated the functional status of a critical region for face processing, the fusiform face area (FFA), in subjects with schizophrenia. Fourteen schizophrenia patients and 10 healthy control subjects participated in an fMRI experiment to determine the functional status of the FFA by viewing a series of faces and exemplars of other object categories, while completing a low-level task designed to verify their engagement with the stimuli. Behavioral performance and activation of the FFA were equivalent between groups. Thirteen of 14 patients and all control subjects displayed FFA activation. Furthermore, the degree of FFA activation, as measured by FFA volume and magnitude of activity, was similar between groups. The FFA, a critical region in the neural system subserving the perceptual processing of faces, appears to be intact in schizophrenia. These results call into question the presence of a specific face processing deficit in schizophrenia.

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