It is increasingly clear that people with schizophrenia have a range of visual perception impairments, including in low-level vision (e.g., acuity, contrast sensitivity) and mid-level vision (e.g., perceptual organization, coherent motion detection). These impairments are significantly related to poorer performance on cognitive (e.g., visual learning and memory) and social cognitive (e.g., facial emotion decoding) measures, and to worse functional outcomes. To date, there is no accepted technique for visual remediation for schizophrenia, and almost no work has been done in this area. However, visual remediation is a well-developed subfield within cognitive rehabilitation for TBI patients, and initial studies of short-term visual perceptual learning in schizophrenia indicate that plasticity exists that could support longer-term changes. Therefore, the overall goal of the proposed project is to test a visual remediation intervention for schizophrenia and determine its effects on specific visual targets with well-understood neurobiological mechanisms. The goal of the R61 is to determine the optimal intervention for improving the targets of contrast sensitivity (CS) and perceptual organization (PO). Extensive evidence exists for impaired CS and PO in schizophrenia. Moreover, these targets are prototypical examples of gain control and integration, respectively, which were identified by the NIMH-sponsored CNTRICS initiative as being the two core mechanisms involved in visual disturbances in the disorder. We will examine two computer-based interventions. One, ULTIMEYES (UE), targets CS. The other, contour integration training (CIT), targets PO. We will also examine the effects of combined treatment (UE&CIT). An active computer-based control treatment will be included. There will be 40 sessions, with assessments after every 10 sessions (N=20/group). The R61 Specific Aim is to evaluate the effects of UE and CIT on CS and PO targets, respectively, to determine if treatment effects meet a pre-specified effect-size criterion. Results of the R61 will be used to identify the treatment (UE, CIT, or UE&CIT) and duration (i.e., dose) that most effectively and efficiently improves the target(s). The goal of the R33 is to conduct an initial randomized controlled trial (RCT) of the optimal treatment identified in the R61. The R33 Specific Aims are to: 1) replicate and extend R61 results supporting visual target engagement in an adequately powered RCT (N=50/group); and 2) determine if visual target engagement is associated with improvements in cognition, social cognition, and functional capacity. If the R33 hypotheses are confirmed, results will inform the design of a later RCT to further explore mediators and moderators of treatment effects, and to move towards a precision medicine approach, wherein we determine which individuals are most likely to benefit from this intervention.
It has become increasingly clear that people with schizophrenia have visual impairments that affect cognitive and social function in schizophrenia. The primary goal of the first phase of this project is to study the effects of two novel computer-based visual remediation interventions on visual perceptual deficits in schizophrenia. The primary goals of the second phase are to test the effectiveness of the optimal intervention on visual perception in a larger sample, and to test the link between improvements in visual perception and changes in specific higher level functions (cognition, social function and outcome) in preparation for a fully-powered clinical trial.