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Study shows schizophrenia limits understanding of body language

Understanding the meaning behind a person's posture or body movement comes easily to many people and helps guide how we react to others socially.

But people with schizophrenia, even those who have mild to moderate symptoms and take medications, are not fluent in understanding body language, according to a University of Iowa-led study that included investigators Nirav Bigelow, Ph.D., Sergio Paradiso, M.D., Ph.D., and Nancy C. Andreasen M.D., Ph.D. The results appear in the April 2006 issue of Schizophrenia Research.

Previous studies conducted by Paradiso and Andreasen showed that patients with schizophrenia have trouble deciphering emotion from human facial expressions. However, it was not well understood whether this perception problem extended to other socially relevant clues, said Sergio Paradiso, the study's corresponding author and assistant professor of psychiatry in the UI Roy J. and Lucille A. Carver College of Medicine.

"As we interact with people, we make judgments that we're not consciously aware of," Paradiso said. "If we see a coworker hunched over and don't see his face, we may approach him cautiously because we think something might be wrong and perhaps we can help. We don't see the face, but we glean information from the body language. People with schizophrenia are not as good at extracting this kind of information to guide their social interactions."

The study included 14 people without schizophrenia and 20 people with schizophrenia who were taking medication and had mild to moderate symptoms.

"Unfortunately, standard treatment for schizophrenia does not appear to be capable of improving perception that helps in being social with others," Paradiso said.

The inability to perceive body language also appears unrelated to a person's level of intelligence. "Many people with schizophrenia, including those who are very bright, remain awkward in social situations," Paradiso added.

The study used inno
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Contact: Becky Soglin
becky-soglin@uiowa.edu
319-335-6660
University of Iowa
18-May-2006


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