Sensory discrimination thresholds (i.e., the briefest stimulus that can be accurately perceived) can be measured using tablet-based auditory and visual sweep paradigms. These basic sensory functions have been found to be diminished in patients with psychosis. However, the extent to which worse sensory discrimination characterizes genetic liability for psychosis, and whether it is related to clinical symptomatology and community functioning remains unknown. In the current study we compared patients with psychosis (PSY; N=76), their first-degree biological relatives (REL; N=44), and groups of healthy controls (CON; N=13 auditory and visual/N=275 auditory/N=267 visual) on measures of auditory and visual sensory discrimination, and examined relationships with a battery of symptom, cognitive, and functioning measures. Sound sweep thresholds differed among the PSY, REL, and CON groups, driven by higher thresholds in the PSY compared to CON group, with the REL group showing intermediate thresholds. Visual thresholds also differed among the three groups, driven by higher thresholds in the REL versus CON group, and no significant differences between the REL and PSY groups. Across groups and among patients, higher thresholds (poorer discrimination) for both sound and visual sweeps strongly correlated with lower global cognitive scores. We conclude that low-level auditory and visual sensory discrimination deficits in psychosis may reflect genetic liability for psychotic illness. Critically, these deficits relate to global cognitive disruptions that are a hallmark of psychotic illnesses such as schizophrenia.
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© Copyright © 2020 Ramsay, Schallmo, Biagianti, Fisher, Vinogradov and Sponheim.
- auditory perception
- global cognition
- sensory discrimination
- visual perception