Nonverbal communication remains untouched: No beneficial effect of symptomatic improvement on poor gesture performance in schizophrenia.

Wüthrich, Florian; Pavlidou, Anastasia; Stegmayer, Katharina; Eisenhardt, Sarah; Moore, Jeanne Yvonne; Schäppi, Lea; Vanbellingen, Tim; Bohlhalter, Stephan; Walther, Sebastian (2020). Nonverbal communication remains untouched: No beneficial effect of symptomatic improvement on poor gesture performance in schizophrenia. Schizophrenia Research, 223, pp. 258-264. Elsevier 10.1016/j.schres.2020.08.013

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Gestures are an important part of communication. Patients with schizophrenia present gesture deficits that tend to deteriorate in the course of the disease and hamper functional outcome. This gesture deficit has been associated with motor abnormalities, cognitive impairment, and psychotic symptoms. Unaffected, first-degree relatives of schizophrenia patients share some subclinical motor and cognitive abnormalities. We aimed to investigate, whether gesture performance changes with symptomatic improvement in patients, and to test the longitudinal performance in unaffected, first-degree relatives.


In this study, we measured gesture performance using a validated test in 33 patients, 29 first-degree relatives and 38 healthy controls. Measurements were completed shortly after admission and before discharge in patients. Performance was rated blindly by experts using video recordings of the gesture task. Additionally, we evaluated cognitive function and psychotic symptoms at both visits.


Gesture performance was poorer in relatives compared to controls and poorer in patients compared to both relatives and controls. Patients showed an improvement in psychopathology but a significant decrease in gesture performance at follow-up, while performance in the other groups remained stable. Proportional change of gesture performance correlated with change of cognitive function in patients, whereas there were no correlations with change of cognitive function in the other groups.


While symptom severity was reduced, the gesture deficit further deteriorated in schizophrenia. The finding argues for distinct processes contributing to poor nonverbal communication skills in patients, requiring novel alternative treatment efforts.

Item Type:

Journal Article (Original Article)


04 Faculty of Medicine > Department of General Internal Medicine (DAIM) > Clinic of General Internal Medicine > Centre of Competence for General Internal Medicine
04 Faculty of Medicine > University Psychiatric Services > University Hospital of Psychiatry and Psychotherapy > Translational Research Center
10 Strategic Research Centers > ARTORG Center for Biomedical Engineering Research > ARTORG Center - Gerontechnology and Rehabilitation

Graduate School:

Graduate School for Health Sciences (GHS)

UniBE Contributor:

Wüthrich, Florian, Pavlidou, Anastasia, Stegmayer, Katharina Deborah Lena, Eisenhardt, Sarah, Moor, Jeanne Yvonne, Schäppi, Lea, Vanbellingen, Tim, Bohlhalter, Stephan, Walther, Sebastian


600 Technology > 610 Medicine & health






[42] Schweizerischer Nationalfonds




Sebastian Walther

Date Deposited:

11 Sep 2020 13:48

Last Modified:

02 Mar 2023 23:33

Publisher DOI:


PubMed ID:


Uncontrolled Keywords:

First-degree relatives Longitudinal Nonverbal communication Nonverbal skills Psychosis TULIA




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