Background. The ability to inhibit inappropriate or unwanted actions is a key element of executive control. The existence of executive function deficits in schizophrenia is consistent with frontal lobe theories of the disorder. Relatively few studies have examined response inhibition in schizophrenia, and none in adolescent patients with early-onset schizophrenia (EOS).
Methods. Twenty-one adolescents with the onset of clinically impairing psychosis before 19 years of age and 16 matched controls performed a stop-signal task to assess response inhibition. The patients with EOS were categorized as paranoid (n=10) and undifferentiated subtypes (n=11). The undifferentiated group had higher levels of negative symptomatology. Stop-signal reaction time (SSRT) and go-signal reaction time (Go-RT) were analysed with respect to hand of response.
Results. The undifferentiated early-onset patients had significantly longer SSRTs, indicative of poor response inhibition, for the left hand compared to the paranoid early-onset patients and control participants. No differences existed for inhibitory control with the right hand. The three groups did not differ in Go-RT.
Conclusions. Our results indicate a specific lateralized impairment of response inhibition in patients with undifferentiated, but not paranoid, EOS. These findings are consistent with reports of immature frontostriatal networks in EOS and implicate areas such as the pre-motor cortex and supplementary motor area (SMA) that are thought to play a role in both voluntary initiation and inhibition of movement.