Neutral Face and Complex Object Neurophysiological Processing Deficits in Long-Term Schizophrenia and in First Hospitalized Schizophrenia-Spectrum Individuals

Salisbury, D.1, Krompinger, J.2,  Lynn, S.3, Onitsuka, T.2, and McCarley, R.2

International Journal of Psychiatry, Volume 140 (2019)

Background: Face processing is impaired in long-term schizophrenia as indexed by a reduced face-related N170 event-related potential (ERP) that corresponds with volumetric decreases in right fusiform gyrus. Impairment in face processing may constitute an object-specific deficit in schizophrenia that relates to social impairment and misattribution of social signs in the disease, or the face deficit may be part of a more general deficit in complex visual processing. Further, it is not clear the degree to which face and complex object processing deficits are present early in disease course. To that end, the current study investigated face- and object-elicited N170 in longterm schizophrenia and the first hospitalized schizophrenia-spectrum.

Methods: ERPs were collected from 32 long-term schizophrenia patients and 32 matched controls, and from 31 first hospitalization patients and 31 matched controls. Subjects detected rarely presented butterflies among nontarget neutral faces and automobiles.

Results: For both patient groups, the N170s to all stimuli were significantly attenuated. Despite this overall reduction, the increase in N170 amplitude to faces was intact in both patient samples. Symptoms were not correlated with N170 amplitude or latency to faces. Conclusions: Information processing of complex stimuli is fundamentally impaired in schizophrenia, as reflected in attenuated N170 ERPs in both first hospitalized and long-term patients. This suggests the presence of low-level visual complex object processing deficits near disease onset that persist with disease course.

University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine
2 Harvard Medical School
Charles River Analytics 

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