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Am J Psychiatry. 2002 Apr;159(4):546-53.

Impaired cortical network for preattentive detection of change in speech sounds in schizophrenia: a high-resolution event-related potential study.

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  • 1Department of Neuropsychiatry, Graduate School of Medicine, University of Tokyo, Japan.



Schizophrenia is associated with language-related dysfunction. At the most basic level, the dysfunction of schizophrenic patients in perceiving phoneme boundaries has been demonstrated in a behavioral task. The goal in this study was to obtain an electrophysiological index of preattentive detection of change in speech sounds by schizophrenic patients.


A high-density recording system was used to measure mismatch negativity, i.e., difference in electrophysiological responses between standard and deviant auditory stimuli. The amplitude of mismatch negativity was measured in 23 right-handed schizophrenic patients and in 28 healthy comparison subjects. Three types of mismatch negativity were recorded: change in duration of pure-tone stimuli, change in duration of the Japanese vowel /a/, and difference between vowels /a/ and /o/ (across-phoneme change).


The schizophrenic patients had a lower amplitude of mismatch negativity for across-phoneme change than for change in duration of tone or vowel. For across-phoneme change, the schizophrenia group showed significantly lower bilateral amplitude of mismatch negativity than the comparison subjects. These findings coincide with those from the analysis of scalp current density, indicating that the schizophrenic patients had a significantly weaker left temporal combination of current sink (perpendicularly sinking into the scalp) and current source (arising out of the scalp) and a significantly weaker right frontal/temporal current sink than the comparison subjects.


These results demonstrate impaired frontotemporal cortical networks for preattentive detection of change in speech sounds in schizophrenia. The language-related dysfunction in schizophrenia may be present at the early stage of auditory processing of relatively simple stimuli, such as phonemes, and not just at stages involving higher-order semantic processes.

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