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Neurophysiological investigations in patients with schizophrenia consistently show early sensory processing deficits in the visual system. Importantly, comparable sensory deficits have also been established in healthy first-degree biological relatives of patients with schizophrenia and in first-episode drug-naive patients. The clear implication is that these measures are endophenotypic, related to the underlying genetic liability for schizophrenia. However, there is significant overlap between patient response distributions and those of healthy individuals without affected first-degree relatives. Here we sought to develop more sensitive measures of sensory dysfunction in this population, with an eye to establishing endophenotypic markers with better predictive capabilities. We used a sensory adaptation paradigm in which electrophysiological responses to basic visual and somatosensory stimuli presented at different rates (ranging from 250 to 2550 ms interstimulus intervals, in blocked presentations) were compared. Our main hypothesis was that adaptation would be substantially diminished in schizophrenia, and that this would be especially prevalent in the visual system. High-density event-related potential recordings showed amplitude reductions in sensory adaptation in patients with schizophrenia (N = 15 Experiment 1, N = 12 Experiment 2) compared with age-matched healthy controls (N=15 Experiment 1, N = 12 Experiment 2), and this was seen for both sensory modalities. At the individual participant level, reduced adaptation was more robust for visual compared with somatosensory stimulation. These results point to significant impairments in short-term sensory plasticity across sensory modalities in schizophrenia. These simple-to-execute measures may prove valuable as candidate endophenotypes and will bear follow-up in future work.
Andrade, G., Butler, J., Molholm, S. & Foxe, J. (2016). Atypical visual and somatosensory adaptation in schizophrenia-spectrum disorders. Translational Psychiatry (2016) 6, e804; doi:10.1038/tp.2016.63.