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Silverstein SM, Wang Y, Keane BP. Cognitive and neuroplasticity mechanisms by which congenital or early blindness may confer a protective effect against schizophrenia. Front Psychol . 2012 ; 3():624. PubMed Abstract

Comments on Paper and Primary News
Comment by:  Pamela Butler
Submitted 26 May 2013 Posted 27 May 2013

This is a gem of a paper. It provides a fresh look at the role of perception and cognition in development of schizophrenia from the vantage point of research on congenital or early (C/E) blindness. As reviewed by Silverstein and colleagues (Silverstein et al., 2012), there are no known cases of people with C/E blindness who developed schizophrenia. In a companion paper, they clarify that this does not appear to be due to the low base rates of either disorder (Silverstein et al., 2013).

The authors discuss evidence that C/E blindness confers protection against schizophrenia in a twofold manner. First, there are neuroplastic changes that produce compensatory enhancement of functions such as auditory perception and attention, memory (including working memory), language, and construction of subjective experience. In contrast, all of these functions are well known to be impaired in schizophrenia. A particularly interesting example of enhancement of subjective experience is improved...  Read more

View all comments by Pamela Butler

Comment by:  José Alberto González-Hernández
Submitted 3 June 2013 Posted 10 June 2013
  I recommend this paper

The comment by Pamela Butler on the review by Silverstein and colleagues is very important and timely. Both the paper and comment highlight the role of the visual system in the development of schizophrenia. As stated in the review, congenital or early (C/E) blindness does not confer protection from other mental disorders, while the opposite also seems true: no other sensorial deprivations have been associated with schizophrenia (Silverstein et al., 2012). The neuroprotective view constitutes a novel postulate that may have a direct impact on future interventions in the attempt to modify the course of the disease as early as possible. Likewise, if C/E blind people are protected against schizophrenia because of the absence of aberrant visual processing during neurodevelopment, we can infer that under this view, visual dysfunction should be present in schizophrenia as a sufficient condition to develop it. Thus, the visual system may become the most promising target to develop tools to distinguish schizophrenia across populations, as...  Read more

View all comments by José Alberto González-Hernández
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