Researchers from the University of Newcastle in Australia are investigating a new way to help schizophrenia patients develop their communication and social skills.
PhD student Kathryn McCabe is studying the eye movements of people with schizophrenia to understand better how they view other people's faces.
Ms McCabe said the ability to recognise facial expressions and social clues was impaired in people with schizophrenia.
"For most people this ability is relatively automatic and an essential component of good social and interpersonal communication, but people with schizophrenia struggle to interpret facial displays of emotion," she said.
"This may contribute to the formation of psychotic symptoms such as hallucinations, delusions and social withdrawal, and interfere with vocational and educational achievement."
Ms McCabe hopes to determine whether the difficulty in reading facial expression can be changed using remediation training.
"Despite the widespread availability of medication for people with schizophrenia, other treatment options are also needed.
"We have developed a training program that we hope will help people with schizophrenia to participate socially and pick-up on facial clues."
Ms McCabe is recruiting people between 18 and 65 who have schizophrenia to assist in her research. Participants will be asked to take part in a weekly interview and half-hour testing session for six weeks where their eye movements are recorded during a series of tasks.
Ms McCabe is conducting her research under the supervision of Dr Carmel Loughland, with the support of the Schizophrenia Research Institute Natasha Snow Postgraduate Scholarship. Natasha Snow passed away in 2003 after battling schizophrenia and the scholarship is an in memoriam donation from her family.
The study is being conducted in association with the University's Priority Research Centre for Brain and Mental Health research and the Hunter Medical Research Institute's (HMRI) Brain and Mental Health program.
HMRI is a partnership between the University of Newcastle, Hunter New England Health and the community.
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