Several studies have shown that schizophrenic patients have difficulties in their ability to recognize emotional facial expressions, whereas other research indicated that they subjectively report the same emotional experience as healthy controls. The purpose of this study was to investigate whether the physiological responses that accompany emotions differ between schizophrenic patients and controls, which would suggest a different basic emotional processing mechanism in these patients. We presented 40 emotion-eliciting pictures to male patients (n = 26) and controls (n = 21), while measuring heart rate (HR), breathing rate (BR), skin conductance response (SCR) and systolic blood pressure (SBP). Each subject rated each picture for its degree of valence and arousal. Mixed-effects regression models were used to investigate the relationships between the subjective ratings and the physiological responses. In both groups, BR and SCR increased with increasing arousal ratings, suggesting sympathetic activation. The SBP of both groups increased with increases in both the valence and the arousal ratings. However, whereas the patients' HR first decreased with decreasing pleasure ratings and subsequently increased with higher arousal and valence ratings, the HR in the control group was influenced by a complex interaction between valence and arousal ratings. Thus, the schizophrenic patients showed similar relationships between subjective ratings and SCR, BR, and SBP, but a different relationship between subjective ratings and HR compared with the healthy controls.

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International Journal of Psychophysiology
Erasmus MC: University Medical Center Rotterdam

Hempel, R., Tulen, J., van Beveren, N., Mulder, P., & Hengeveld, M. (2007). Subjective and physiological responses to emotion-eliciting pictures in male schizophrenic patients. International Journal of Psychophysiology, 64(2), 174–183. doi:10.1016/j.ijpsycho.2007.01.008