Previous research demonstrates that people with 22q11.2 deletion syndrome (22q11DS) have social and interpersonal skill deficits. However, the basis of this deficit is unknown. This study examined, for the first time, how people with 22q11DS process emotional face stimuli using visual scanpath technology. The visual scanpaths of 17 adolescents and age/gender matched healthy controls were recorded while they viewed face images depicting one of seven basic emotions (happy, sad, surprised, angry, fear, disgust and neutral). Recognition accuracy was measured concurrently. People with 22q11DS differed significantly from controls, displaying visual scanpath patterns that were characterised by fewer fixations and a shorter scanpath length. The 22q11DS group also spent significantly more time gazing at the mouth region and significantly less time looking at eye regions of the faces. Recognition accuracy was correspondingly impaired, with 22q11DS subjects displaying particular deficits for fear and disgust. These findings suggest that 22q11DS is associated with a maladaptive visual information processing strategy that may underlie affect recognition accuracy and social functioning deficits in this group.
Psychiatry Research Vol. 177, Issue 1-2, p. 211-215