Probing the magnocellular and parvocellular visual pathways in facial emotion perception in schizophrenia

Carol Jahshan, Maor Wolf, Yinnon Karbi, Eyal Shamir, Yuri Rassovsky

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Scopus citations


Schizophrenia patients have well-established deficits in facial emotion perception, which contribute to their poor social functioning. A number of studies have related these deficits to a differential dysfunction in the magnocellular (M) versus parvocellular (P) visual pathway. We assessed 35 schizophrenia patients and 35 healthy individuals on an emotion identification task, in which facial stimuli were either unaltered (broad spatial frequency, BSF) or manipulated to contain only high (HSF) or low (LSF) spatial frequencies, thereby respectively biasing the visual system toward the P- or M- pathways. As expected, patients were less accurate and slower in recognizing emotions across all conditions, relative to controls. Performance was best in the BSF condition followed by the HSF and finally the LSF condition, in both groups. A significant group by spatial frequency interaction reflected a smaller magnitude of impairment in the HSF condition, compared to the other two conditions that preferentially engage the M-system. These findings are consistent with studies showing a differential M-pathway abnormality in schizophrenia with a less pronounced impairment in P-function. The current study suggests that patients have less difficulty extracting emotional content from faces when LSFs are attenuated and supports the need to remediate basic visual processing deficits in schizophrenia.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)38-42
Number of pages5
JournalPsychiatry Research
StatePublished - 1 Jul 2017

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2017 Elsevier Ireland Ltd


Writing of this manuscript was supported by a Career Development Award (IK2 CX000844) to Dr. Jahshan from the United States (U.S.) Department of Veterans Affairs, Clinical Sciences Research and Development Service, and by the Israel Science Foundation (Grant #621/14) to Dr. Rassovsky. All authors declare that they have no conflicts of interest arising from this manuscript.

FundersFunder number
Israel Science Foundation621/14


    • Emotion recognition
    • Magnocellular
    • Parvocellular
    • Schizophrenia
    • Spatial frequency
    • Visual perception


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