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Deficits in automatic sensory discrimination, as indexed by a reduction in the mismatch negativity (MMN) and P3a event-related potential amplitudes, are well documented in chronic schizophrenia. However, MMN and P3a have not been sufficiently studied early in the course of psychotic illness. The present study aimed to investigate MMN, P3a and reorienting negativity (RON) across the course of schizophrenia.
MMN, P3a, and RON were assessed in 118 subjects across four groups: (1) individuals at risk for psychosis (n=26); (2) recent-onset patients (n=31); (3) chronic patients (n=33); and (4) normal controls (n=28) using a duration-deviant auditory oddball paradigm.
Frontocentral deficits in MMN and P3a were present in all patient groups. The at-risk group's MMN and P3a amplitudes were intermediate to those of the control and recent-onset groups. The recent-onset and chronic patients, but not the at-risk subjects, showed significant RON amplitude reductions, relative to the control group. Associations between MMN, P3a, RON and psychosocial functioning were present in the chronic patients. In the at-risk subjects, P3a and RON deficits were significantly associated with higher levels of negative symptoms.
Abnormalities in the automatic processes of sensory discrimination, orienting and reorienting of attention are evident in the early phases of schizophrenia and raise the possibility of progressive worsening across stages of the illness. The finding that MMN and P3a, but not RON, were reduced before psychosis onset supports the continued examination of these components as potential early biomarkers of schizophrenia.
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