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Systematic review and meta-analysis of the relationship between genetic risk for schizophrenia and facial emotion recognition.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Original languageEnglish
Number of pages7
JournalSchizophrenia Research
Early online date11 Jan 2020
DateAccepted/In press - 22 Dec 2019
DateE-pub ahead of print (current) - 11 Jan 2020


Recent research has highlighted that facial emotion recognition deficits are more common in people with schizophrenia, but the reason for this association is not well understood. Comparing facial recognition deficits in unaffected individuals at higher genetic risk for schizophrenia with individuals at lower genetic risk could increase our understanding of this relationship.

We systematically reviewed studies reporting on the relationship between genetic risk of schizophrenia and facial emotion recognition deficits. Meta-analyses were performed where sufficient data were available, otherwise we conducted narrative summaries. Meta-analyses were performed both for generalised and specific facial emotion recognition deficits.

34 studies were included in this review with 23 included in meta-analyses. Meta-analysis indicated strong evidence of a deficit in facial emotion recognition in first-degree relatives of people with schizophrenia compared with controls (SMD 0.38 95% CI 0.26 to 0.51, p ≤ 0.001). Further meta-analyses demonstrated strong evidence of a deficit in the recognition of negative valence facial expressions (SMD 0.19 CI 0.06 to 0.32, p = 0.004) but no evidence of deficit in the recognition of neutral or positive valance.

There is strong evidence of facial emotion recognition deficits in first-degree relatives of people with schizophrenia. Our findings suggest that such deficits in people with schizophrenia arise prior to the onset of the disorder, though cannot inform whether that association is causal or due to confounding. Emotion recognition deficits, particularly to negative emotions, might be useful predictors of schizophrenia risk.

    Research areas

  • Schizophrenia, Facial emotion recognition, Genetic, Family history, High risk



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    Embargo ends: 11/01/21

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