Perceptual organization and visual search processes during target detection task performance in schizophrenia, as revealed by fMRI

Steven M. Silverstein, Sarah Berten, Brian Essex, Sherrie D. All, Ravi Kasi, Deborah M. Little

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

21 Scopus citations


Background: Past studies of perceptual organization in schizophrenia have demonstrated impairments binding fragmented stimulus components into unified representations. ERP and fMRI data indicate that even under conditions of adequate behavioral task performance, significant and meaningful changes in cortical and subcortical activation are present. Here, we examined, using fMRI, activation differences on a visual task wherein feature grouping was a precursor to the formation of distinct groups in the service of target location and identification. Method: Fourteen schizophrenia patients and 16 healthy controls completed a target detection task with 2 conditions: one in which target-distractor grouping facilitates detection (the Isolated condition) and one in which it hinders detection (the Embedded condition). Stimuli were blocked by condition. Accuracy and RT data were obtained in addition to fMRI data. Results: Patients and controls did not differ significantly in accuracy or RT in either condition. Within this context, controls demonstrated greater recruitment of brain regions involved in visual-spatial processing, and the groups differed in activity in areas known to support visual search, visual analysis, decision making and response generation. Conclusion: These findings are consistent with past data indicating reduced processing of stimulus organization, and the subsequent use of inefficient visual search strategies, even under conditions when behavioral performance is at a high level and matches that of healthy controls.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2886-2893
Number of pages8
Issue number10
StatePublished - Aug 2010

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Behavioral Neuroscience


  • Cognition
  • FMRI
  • Perception
  • Schizophrenia
  • Vision
  • Visual search


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