BACKGROUND - Motion perception deficits have been suggested to be an important feature of schizophrenia but the behavioral consequences of such deficits are unknown. Biological motion refers to the movements generated by living beings. The human visual system rapidly and effortlessly detects and extracts socially relevant information from biological motion. A deficit in biological motion perception may have significant consequences for detecting and interpreting social information.
METHODS - Schizophrenia patients and matched healthy controls were tested on two visual tasks: recognition of human activity portrayed in point-light animations (biological motion task) and a perceptual control task involving detection of a grouped figure against the background noise (global-form task). Both tasks required detection of a global form against background noise but only the biological motion task required the extraction of motion-related information.
RESULTS - Schizophrenia patients performed as well as the controls in the global-form task, but were significantly impaired on the biological motion task. In addition, deficits in biological motion perception correlated with impaired social functioning as measured by the Zigler social competence scale [Zigler, E., Levine, J. (1981). Premorbid competence in schizophrenia: what is being measured? Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 49, 96-105.].
CONCLUSION - The deficit in biological motion processing, which may be related to the previously documented deficit in global motion processing, could contribute to abnormal social functioning in schizophrenia.