Skip to main content Accessibility help

Do patients with schizophrenia exhibit aberrant salience?

  • J. P. Roiser (a1) (a2), K. E. Stephan (a2), H. E. M. den Ouden (a2), T. R. E. Barnes (a3), K. J. Friston (a2) and E. M. Joyce (a2)...



It has been suggested that some psychotic symptoms reflect ‘aberrant salience’, related to dysfunctional reward learning. To test this hypothesis we investigated whether patients with schizophrenia showed impaired learning of task-relevant stimulus–reinforcement associations in the presence of distracting task-irrelevant cues.


We tested 20 medicated patients with schizophrenia and 17 controls on a reaction time game, the Salience Attribution Test. In this game, participants made a speeded response to earn money in the presence of conditioned stimuli (CSs). Each CS comprised two visual dimensions, colour and form. Probability of reinforcement varied over one of these dimensions (task-relevant), but not the other (task-irrelevant). Measures of adaptive and aberrant motivational salience were calculated on the basis of latency and subjective reinforcement probability rating differences over the task-relevant and task-irrelevant dimensions respectively.


Participants rated reinforcement significantly more likely and responded significantly faster on high-probability-reinforced relative to low-probability-reinforced trials, representing adaptive motivational salience. Patients exhibited reduced adaptive salience relative to controls, but the two groups did not differ in terms of aberrant salience. Patients with delusions exhibited significantly greater aberrant salience than those without delusions, and aberrant salience also correlated with negative symptoms. In the controls, aberrant salience correlated significantly with ‘introvertive anhedonia’ schizotypy.


These data support the hypothesis that aberrant salience is related to the presence of delusions in medicated patients with schizophrenia, but are also suggestive of a link with negative symptoms. The relationship between aberrant salience and psychotic symptoms warrants further investigation in unmedicated patients.

  • View HTML
    • Send article to Kindle

      To send this article to your Kindle, first ensure is added to your Approved Personal Document E-mail List under your Personal Document Settings on the Manage Your Content and Devices page of your Amazon account. Then enter the ‘name’ part of your Kindle email address below. Find out more about sending to your Kindle. Find out more about sending to your Kindle.

      Note you can select to send to either the or variations. ‘’ emails are free but can only be sent to your device when it is connected to wi-fi. ‘’ emails can be delivered even when you are not connected to wi-fi, but note that service fees apply.

      Find out more about the Kindle Personal Document Service.

      Do patients with schizophrenia exhibit aberrant salience?
      Available formats

      Send article to Dropbox

      To send this article to your Dropbox account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your <service> account. Find out more about sending content to Dropbox.

      Do patients with schizophrenia exhibit aberrant salience?
      Available formats

      Send article to Google Drive

      To send this article to your Google Drive account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your <service> account. Find out more about sending content to Google Drive.

      Do patients with schizophrenia exhibit aberrant salience?
      Available formats


Corresponding author

*Address for correspondence: J. P. Roiser, Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience, University College London, 17 Queen Square, London WC1N 3AR, UK. (Email:


Hide All
Abi-Dargham, A (2004). Do we still believe in the dopamine hypothesis? New data bring new evidence. International Journal of Neuropsychopharmacology 7 (Suppl. 1), S1S5.
Abi-Dargham, A, Rodenhiser, J, Printz, D, Zea-Ponce, Y, Gil, R, Kegeles, LS, Weiss, R, Cooper, TB, Mann, JJ, Van Heertum, RL, Gorman, JM, Laruelle, M (2000). Increased baseline occupancy of D2 receptors by dopamine in schizophrenia. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA 97, 81048109.
Addington, D, Addington, J, Schissel, B (1990). A depression rating scale for schizophrenics. Schizophrenia Research 3, 247251.
Andreasen, NC (1981). Scale for the Assessment of Negative Symptoms (SANS). University of Iowa Press: Iowa City.
Andreasen, NC (1983). Scale for the Assessment of Positive Symptoms (SAPS). University of Iowa Press: Iowa City.
Berridge, KC (2007). The debate over dopamine's role in reward: the case for incentive salience. Psychopharmacology (Berlin) 191, 391431.
Berridge, KC, Robinson, TE (1998). What is the role of dopamine in reward: hedonic impact, reward learning, or incentive salience? Brain Research Reviews 28, 309369.
Chapman, LJ, Chapman, JP, Kwapil, TR, Eckblad, M, Zinser, MC (1994). Putatively psychosis-prone subjects 10 years later. Journal of Abnormal Psychology 103, 171183.
Claridge, G (1994). Single indicator of risk for schizophrenia: probable fact or likely myth? Schizophrenia Bulletin 20, 151168.
Cohen, BD (1956). Motivation and performance in schizophrenia. Journal of Abnormal Psychology 52, 186190.
Cutmore, TR, Beninger, RJ (1990). Do neuroleptics impair learning in schizophrenic patients? Schizophrenia Research 3, 173186.
Dayan, P, Balleine, BW (2002). Reward, motivation, and reinforcement learning. Neuron 36, 285298.
Garety, PA, Hemsley, DR, Wessely, S (1991). Reasoning in deluded schizophrenic and paranoid patients. Biases in performance on a probabilistic inference task. Journal of Nervous and Mental Disorders 179, 194201.
Garmezy, N (1952). Stimulus differentiation by schizophrenic and normal subjects under conditions of reward and punishment. Journal of Personality 20, 253276.
Grace, AA (1991). Phasic versus tonic dopamine release and the modulation of dopamine system responsivity: a hypothesis for the etiology of schizophrenia. Neuroscience 41, 124.
Heerey, EA, Gold, JM (2007). Patients with schizophrenia demonstrate dissociation between affective experience and motivated behavior. Journal of Abnormal Psychology 116, 268278.
Hietala, J, Syvalahti, E, Vuorio, K, Rakkolainen, V, Bergman, J, Haaparanta, M, Solin, O, Kuoppamaki, M, Kirvela, O, Ruotsalainen, U, et al. (1995). Presynaptic dopamine function in striatum of neuroleptic-naive schizophrenic patients. Lancet 346, 11301131.
Jablensky, A, McGrath, J, Herrman, H, Castle, D, Gureje, O, Evans, M, Carr, V, Morgan, V, Korten, A, Harvey, C (2000). Psychotic disorders in urban areas: an overview of the Study on Low Prevalence Disorders. Australian and New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry 34, 221236.
Jablensky, A, Sartorius, N, Ernberg, G, Anker, M, Korten, A, Cooper, JE, Day, R, Bertelsen, A (1992). Schizophrenia: manifestations, incidence and course in different cultures. A World Health Organization ten-country study. Psychological Medicine (Monograph Supplement) 20, 197.
Jensen, J, Willeit, M, Zipursky, RB, Savina, I, Smith, AJ, Menon, M, Crawley, AP, Kapur, S (2008). The formation of abnormal associations in schizophrenia: neural and behavioral evidence. Neuropsychopharmacology 33, 473479.
Joyce, EM, Hutton, SB, Mutsatsa, SH, Barnes, TR (2005). Cognitive heterogeneity in first-episode schizophrenia. British Journal of Psychiatry 187, 516522.
Juckel, G, Schlagenhauf, F, Koslowski, M, Wustenberg, T, Villringer, A, Knutson, B, Wrase, J, Heinz, A (2006). Dysfunction of ventral striatal reward prediction in schizophrenia. Neuroimage 29, 409416.
Kapur, S (2003). Psychosis as a state of aberrant salience: a framework linking biology, phenomenology, and pharmacology in schizophrenia. American Journal of Psychiatry 160, 1323.
King, R, Barchas, JD, Huberman, BA (1984). Chaotic behavior in dopamine neurodynamics. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA 81, 12441247.
Knutson, B, Bjork, JM, Fong, GW, Hommer, D, Mattay, VS, Weinberger, DR (2004). Amphetamine modulates human incentive processing. Neuron 43, 261269.
Laruelle, M, Abi-Dargham, A, van Dyck, CH, Gil, R, D‘Souza, CD, Erdos, J, McCance, E, Rosenblatt, W, Fingado, C, Zoghbi, SS, Baldwin, RM, Seibyl, JP, Krystal, JH, Charney, DS, Innis, RB (1996). Single photon emission computerized tomography imaging of amphetamine-induced dopamine release in drug-free schizophrenic subjects. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA 93, 92359240.
Mason, O, Linney, Y, Claridge, G (2005). Short scales for measuring schizotypy. Schizophrenia Research 78, 293296.
McGowan, S, Lawrence, AD, Sales, T, Quested, D, Grasby, P (2004). Presynaptic dopaminergic dysfunction in schizophrenia: a positron emission tomographic [18F]fluorodopa study. Archives of General Psychiatry 61, 134142.
Miller, R (1993). Striatal dopamine in reward and attention: a system for understanding the symptomatology of acute schizophrenia and mania. International Review of Neurobiology 35, 161278.
Milstein, DM, Dorris, MC (2007). The influence of expected value on saccadic preparation. Journal of Neuroscience 27, 48104818.
Murray, GK, Corlett, PR, Clark, L, Pessiglione, M, Blackwell, AD, Honey, G, Jones, PB, Bullmore, ET, Robbins, TW, Fletcher, PC (2008). Substantia nigra/ventral tegmental reward prediction error disruption in psychosis. Molecular Psychiatry 13, 267276.
Pessiglione, M, Seymour, B, Flandin, G, Dolan, RJ, Frith, CD (2006). Dopamine-dependent prediction errors underpin reward-seeking behaviour in humans. Nature 442, 10421045.
Robbins, TW (2005). Synthesizing schizophrenia: a bottom-up, symptomatic approach. Schizophrenia Bulletin 31, 854864.
Schooler, NR (1994). Deficit symptoms in schizophrenia: negative symptoms versus neuroleptic-induced deficits. Acta Psychiatrica Scandinavica 380 (Suppl.), 2126.
Schultz, W (1997). Dopamine neurons and their role in reward mechanisms. Current Opinion in Neurobiology 7, 191197.
Schultz, W, Dayan, P, Montague, PR (1997). A neural substrate of prediction and reward. Science 275, 15931599.
Seymour, B, Daw, N, Dayan, P, Singer, T, Dolan, R (2007). Differential encoding of losses and gains in the human striatum. Journal of Neuroscience 27, 48264831.
Shaner, A (1999). Delusions, superstitious conditioning and chaotic dopamine neurodynamics. Medical Hypotheses 52, 119123.
Sheehan, DV, Lecrubier, Y, Sheehan, KH, Amorim, P, Janavs, J, Weiller, E, Hergueta, T, Baker, R, Dunbar, GC (1998). The Mini-International Neuropsychiatric Interview (M.I.N.I.): the development and validation of a structured diagnostic psychiatric interview for DSM-IV and ICD-10. Journal of Clinical Psychiatry 59 (Suppl. 20), 2257.
Snyder, SH (1976). The dopamine hypothesis of schizophrenia: focus on the dopamine receptor. American Journal of Psychiatry 133, 197202.
Stefanis, NC, Van Os, J, Avramopoulos, D, Smyrnis, N, Evdokimidis, I, Hantoumi, I, Stefanis, CN (2004). Variation in catechol-o-methyltransferase val158 met genotype associated with schizotypy but not cognition: a population study in 543 young men. Biological Psychiatry 56, 510515.
Taylor, SF, Phan, KL, Britton, JC, Liberzon, I (2005). Neural response to emotional salience in schizophrenia. Neuropsychopharmacology 30, 984995.
Waltz, JA, Frank, MJ, Robinson, BM, Gold, JM (2007). Selective reinforcement learning deficits in schizophrenia support predictions from computational models of striatal-cortical dysfunction. Biological Psychiatry 62, 756764.
Wechsler, D (1981). Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale – Revised. The Psychological Corporation: New York.
Wechsler, D (2001). Wechsler Test of Adult Reading Manual. The Psychological Corporation: San Antonio, TX.
Winterer, G, Weinberger, DR (2004). Genes, dopamine and cortical signal-to-noise ratio in schizophrenia. Trends in Neuroscience 27, 683690.
Wise, RA (2004). Dopamine, learning and motivation. Nature Reviews Neuroscience 5, 483494.
Wyvell, CL, Berridge, KC (2000). Intra-accumbens amphetamine increases the conditioned incentive salience of sucrose reward: enhancement of reward ‘wanting’ without enhanced ‘liking’ or response reinforcement. Journal of Neuroscience 20, 81228130.
Young, RC, Biggs, JT, Ziegler, VE, Meyer, DA (1978). A rating scale for mania: reliability, validity and sensitivity. British Journal of Psychiatry 133, 429435.


Type Description Title
Supplementary materials

Roiser Supplementary Material
Supplementary Material.doc

 PDF (21 KB)
21 KB

Do patients with schizophrenia exhibit aberrant salience?

  • J. P. Roiser (a1) (a2), K. E. Stephan (a2), H. E. M. den Ouden (a2), T. R. E. Barnes (a3), K. J. Friston (a2) and E. M. Joyce (a2)...


Altmetric attention score

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed