Honors College
 

Document Type

Honors Thesis

Major

Zoology

Advisor(s)

Leonard Kass

Committee Members

Saul Allen, Ann Dieffenbacher-Krall, Benjamin A. Guenther, Jordan P. LaBouff

Graduation Year

May 2022

Publication Date

Spring 5-2022

Abstract

Widely misunderstood, stigmatized and understudied, schizophrenia is often misdiagnosed and incorrectly treated. While people diagnosed with schizophrenia are often thought to misinterpret reality, they may be more adept at processing visual sensory information and perceive reality better than those without schizophrenia. Studies involving patients with schizophrenia have shown consistent and extensive insusceptibility of these patients to a variety of optical illusions. In this paper, I propose that when processing visual information, people with schizophrenia rely greater upon the dorsal stream and areas in the brain associated with bottom-up processing, as opposed to those without schizophrenia that utilize the ventral stream and areas of the brain associated with top-down processing of visual information. Furthermore, I speculate that this difference in visual information processing begins around age 8, but can take decades to fully develop, much like other symptoms characteristic of schizophrenia. In order to test these hypotheses, I suggest a feasible experiment in which adult and juvenile participants with schizophrenia or genetic predisposition to schizophrenia, are matched with healthy participants without schizophrenia and are observed under fMRI technology to assess activity in various regions of the brain while viewing images reflective of dimensional, optical illusions. Like any disease, illness or mental disorder, the key to successful treatment of patients with schizophrenia is early diagnosis. Ultimately, the introduction of the use of optical illusions in medical settings to assist in diagnosis and justifying further testing for schizophrenia may prove essential in providing patients with timely treatment.

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