Gesticulation in individuals with at risk mental states for psychosis

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Nonverbal communication (NVC) is a complex behavior that involves different modalities that are impaired in the schizophrenia spectrum, including gesticulation. However, there are few studies that evaluate it in individuals with at-risk mental states (ARMS) for psychosis, mostly in developed countries. Given our prior findings of reduced movement during speech seen in Brazilian individuals with ARMS, we now aim to determine if this can be accounted for by reduced gesticulation behavior. Fifty-six medication-naïve ARMS and 64 healthy controls were filmed during speech tasks. The frequency of specifically coded gestures across four categories (and self-stimulatory behaviors) were compared between groups and tested for correlations with prodromal symptoms of the Structured Interview for Prodromal Syndromes (SIPS) and with the variables previously published. ARMS individuals showed a reduction in one gesture category, but it did not survive Bonferroni’s correction. Gesture frequency was negatively correlated with prodromal symptoms and positively correlated with the variables of the amount of movement previously analyzed. The lack of significant differences between ARMS and control contradicts literature findings in other cultural context, in which a reduction is usually seen in at-risk individuals. However, gesture frequency might be a visual proxy of prodromal symptoms, and of other movement abnormalities. Results show the importance of analyzing NVC in ARMS and of considering different cultural and sociodemographic contexts in the search for markers of these states.