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Abnormalities in Eye Movements and Attention can Predict Schizophrenia

A Binghamton University researcher has established a new framework to help determine whether individuals might be at risk// for schizophrenia.

In a study published in this month’s Journal of Abnormal Psychology, Mark F. Lenzenweger, a professor of clinical science, neuroscience and cognitive psychology at Binghamton University, State University of New York (SUNY), is the first to have found that abnormalities in eye movements and attention can be used to divide people into two groups in relation to schizophrenia-related risk.

“Schizophrenia affects one in every 100 people,” said Lenzenweger, who considers it the costliest form of mental illness known to humankind. It has a strong genetic component; about 80 percent of what determines schizophrenia is related to genetic influences.

“Not only does it impair people’s cognitive, emotional, social and occupational functioning when it’s going in full symptomatic form,” he said, “it stays with people across the lifespan. Schizophrenia starts early in life, beginning anywhere from 15 to 30, and continues onward. What you have is a person who is impaired, has been removed from the workforce, as well as requires lifelong care and there are immense costs attached to their illness.”

According to Lezenweger, prior studies started with someone who had the illness and then backtracked to find deficits, such as eye tracking and sustained attention problems.

“What I said we needed to do was to go into the general population and measure those traits – those neurocognitive processes – and see whether impairment in those processes predicts schizotypic features. So I really turned the whole question on its head,” said Lezenweger.

The study, funded by a $100,000 Distinguished Investigator Award from the National Alliance for Research on Schizophrenia and Depression, or NARSAD, involved 300 adults drawn from the general population. The findings suggests that the manne
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