The Backward Masking Red Light Effect in Schizophrenia: Relationship to Clinical Features and Neurocognitive Performance

Jeffrey S. Bedwell, Yuri Rassovsky, Diana M. Orem, Vidyulata Kamath

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The " backward masking red light effect" involves a change in visual backward masking performance with a red (compared with a green or gray) background that is in the opposite direction relative to nonpsychiatric controls. This effect has been previously reported in individuals with schizophrenia, their first-degree relatives, and a schizotypy sample. The current study provides the first examination of the relationship of this effect with clinical and neurocognitive measures in a new sample of higher functioning patients with schizophrenia. A location backward masking by pattern task was administered to 16 outpatients with schizophrenia and 21 nonpsychiatric controls. The task was presented on red, green, and gray backgrounds. There was a significant group by color interaction at the 60-ms stimulus onset asynchrony: Participants with schizophrenia tended to decrease accuracy with a red (compared with a gray) background, whereas controls tended to increase accuracy. This interaction remained significant after covarying for baseline (gray) backward masking accuracy. In the schizophrenia patients, a decrease in backward masking accuracy to the red background was correlated with more negative symptoms, lower estimated premorbid IQ, and greater color-word Stroop interference but was not related to positive or disorganized symptoms, age of onset, duration of illness, digit symbol coding performance, or baseline (gray) backward masking accuracy. In contrast, there was no relationship between the red light change score and any of the neurocognitive variables in the control group.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)490-496
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Abnormal Psychology
Issue number2
StatePublished - May 2011
Externally publishedYes


  • Endophenotype
  • Magnocellular visual pathway
  • Red light
  • Schizophrenia
  • Visual backward masking

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Biological Psychiatry


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