Schizophrenia is associated with a wide range of emotional impairments in perception, experience, and expression. Recent evidence suggests that while patients with schizophrenia have intact ability to experience emotion, they show a deficit in translating emotional salience into effortful behavior in daily life. This phenomenon of emotion-behavior decoupling appears to be related to the negative symptom of avolition and may constitute a neuropsychological marker in the schizophrenia spectrum.
Dr. CHAN Raymond and his team from the Institute of Psychology have previously reported the presence of emotion-behavior decoupling in patients with first-episode schizophrenia. However, it is still not known whether this emotion-behavior decoupling has already demonstrated in different stages of the illness. Dr. CHAN and his collaborators (Drs. LUI Simon and CHEUNG Eric) from Hong Kong have conducted 3 independent experiments using the same anticipation and consummaotry paradigm they employed in the previous study to examine the different nature and extent of emotion-behavior coupling in 27 patients with first-episode, and 25 patients with chronic schizophrenia, 31 individuals reporting negative schizotypal symptoms). While the previous studies only examined how emotion valence couples with behavior, the present study also examined emotion arousal-behavior coupling.
The results showed both groups with schizophrenia reported similar affective experiences as their controls, whereas individuals reporting negative schizotypal symptoms showed “in-the-moment” anhedonia. Moreover, the schizophrenia groups’ affective experiences along both valence and arousal dimensions corresponded less well to their behavior relative to controls; whereas the negative schizotypal group showed intact emotion-behavior coupling along both valence and arousal dimensions. These findings provide pioneer evidence for decoupling between emotion arousal and behavior in people with schizophrenia, and support the idea that emotion–behavior decoupling differs in nature and extent across the different stages of schizophrenia.
This study was supported by grants from the Beijing Training Project for the Leading Talents in S & T, the Strategic Priority Research Program of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, National Natural Science Foundation of China, and the Key Laboratory of Mental Health, Institute of Psychology.
The paper is now published online in Neuropsychology.