Emotion Recognition and Adverse Childhood Experiences in Individuals at Clinical High Risk of Psychosis

EU-GEI High Risk Study

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OBJECTIVE: To investigate the association between facial affect recognition (FAR) and type of adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) in a sample of clinical high risk (CHR) individuals and a matched sample of healthy controls (HCs).

METHODS: In total, 309 CHR individuals and 51 HC were recruited as part of an European Union-funded multicenter study (EU-GEI) and included in this work. During a 2-year follow-up period, 65 CHR participants made a transition to psychosis (CHR-T) and 279 did not (CHR-NT). FAR ability was measured using a computerized version of the Degraded Facial Affect Recognition (DFAR) task. ACEs were measured using the Childhood Experience of Care and Abuse Questionnaire, the Childhood Trauma Questionnaire, and the Bullying Questionnaire. Generalized regression models were used to investigate the relationship between ACE and FAR. Logistic regressions were used to investigate the relationship between FAR and psychotic transition.

RESULTS: In CHR individuals, having experienced emotional abuse was associated with decreased total and neutral DFAR scores. CHR individuals who had experienced bullying performed better in the total DFAR and in the frightened condition. In HC and CHR, having experienced the death of a parent during childhood was associated with lower DFAR total score and lower neutral DFAR score, respectively. Analyses revealed a modest increase of transition risk with increasing mistakes from happy to angry faces.

CONCLUSIONS: Adverse experiences in childhood seem to have a significant impact on emotional processing in adult life. This information could be helpful in a therapeutic setting where both difficulties in social interactions and adverse experiences are often addressed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)823-833
Number of pages11
JournalSchizophrenia bulletin
Issue number4
Early online date21 Feb 2020
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2020


The European Network of National Schizophrenia Networks Studying Gene-Environment Interactions (EU-GEI) Project is funded by grant agreement HEALTH-F2-2010-241909 (Project EU-GEI) from the European Community's Seventh Framework Programme. Additional support was provided by a Medical Research Council Fellowship to M. Kempton (grant MR/J008915/1). S. Tognin is supported by by a Brain and Behavior Young Investigator award (NARSAD YI, 24786) and by a Maudsley Charity Grant (1510). G. Modinos is supported by a Sir Henry Dale Fellowship, jointly funded by the Wellcome Trust and the Royal Society (#202397/Z/16/Z). B. Nelson was supported by an NHMRC Senior Research Fellowship (1137687). N. Barrantes-Vidal was supported by the Ministerio de Ciencia, Innovación e Universidades (PSI2017-87512-C2- 1-R) and the Generalitat de Catalunya (2017SGR1612 and ICREA Academia Award).

FundersFunder number
European Network of National Schizophrenia Networks Studying Gene-Environment InteractionsHEALTH-F2-2010-241909
National Alliance for Research on Schizophrenia and Depression24786
Wellcome Trust
Maudsley Charity1510
Ministerio de Ciencia, Innovación y UniversidadesPSI2017-87512-C2- 1-R
Medical Research CouncilMR/J008915/1
Royal Society202397/Z/16/Z
National Health and Medical Research Council1137687
Generalitat de Catalunya2017SGR1612
Institució Catalana de Recerca i Estudis Avançats
Seventh Framework Programme


    • childhood adversities
    • emotional processing
    • facial affect
    • psychosis risk
    • recognition
    • vulnerability to psychosis


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