Event-Related Potentials to Auditory and Visual Selective Attention in Schizophrenia

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Schizophrenia, Event-related potentials, Auditory attention, Visual attention, Bimodal stimuli

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Background: Prior studies have shown a consistent reduction of the auditory P300 in schizophrenia, while the visual attention findings have been mixed. Both the auditory and visual N2b, an earlier, modality-specific attention index, are reduced in schizophrenia, sometimes despite sparing of the visual P300. Thus there may be a dissociation between the N2b and P300 attention effects in auditory and visual modalities in schizophrenia.

Methods: Thirteen patients and thirteen controls observed symbols appearing on a screen, paired with simultaneous tones. In some blocks subjects responded to one of the symbols, in others to one of the tones. The N2b was predicted to be reduced in the patient group in both auditory and visual attention but the P300 reduced only while attending to tones.

Results: Results showed a reduction of the N1 component in the patient group in the auditory condition but not in the visual. There was a reduction of the N2b target-minus-non-target difference wave in the patients in both auditory and visual target conditions. The P300 component was larger overall in the control group in both modalities, but did not show the usual enhancement to auditory targets in the control group.

Conclusions: These findings suggest that the ability to selectively attend to a target in one modality while ignoring the other is compromised in patients with schizophrenia. Perceptual processing appears to be impacted in the auditory modality while remaining intact in the visual. The N2b appears more vulnerable than the P300 in both auditory and visual attention in schizophrenia.

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Citation / Publisher Attribution

International Journal of Psychophysiology, v. 60, issue 1, issue 1, p. 67-75