Brain activation during eye gaze discrimination in stable schizophrenia

Christian G. Kohler, James Loughead, Kosha Ruparel, Tim Indersmitten, Frederick S. Barrett, Raquel E. Gur, Ruben C. Gur

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objective: Earlier studies described gaze discrimination impairment in schizophrenia. The purpose of this study was to compare gaze discrimination abilities and associated brain activation in persons with stable schizophrenia and matched controls. Methods: 13 schizophrenia and 12 healthy participants underwent a gaze discrimination task with face stimuli rotated at 0, 4 and 8° deviation. During fMRI with BOLD imaging, subjects were asked to identify whether a face was making eye contact. Subject-level parameter estimates for BOLD signal change were entered into an orientation by group mixed effect repeated measures ANOVA. Results: Gaze discrimination performance did not differ between groups. Patients showed decreased activation in areas of bilateral inferior frontal and occipital areas, and select temporo-limbic regions, including amygdala. Groups differed by activation patterns according to gaze deviation. In controls, faces with 4° deviation produced higher activation in frontal and temporal regions. In patients, 0° deviation produced increased activation in amygdala and areas of temporal neocortex. Conclusions: Despite similar gaze discrimination abilities, schizophrenia patients exhibit decreased brain activation in areas associated with executive, emotional and visual processing. Controls exhibited increased activation associated with the more difficult task in select frontal and temporal regions. Patients exhibited increased activation associated with direct gaze in temporal regions, which may relate to common symptoms.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)286-293
Number of pages8
JournalSchizophrenia Research
Issue number1-3
StatePublished - Feb 2008
Externally publishedYes


  • Amygdala
  • Faces
  • Frontal lobe
  • Gaze discrimination
  • Schizophrenia
  • fMRI

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Biological Psychiatry


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