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J Psychiatr Res. 2004 Jan;38(1):37-46.

Electrophysiological evidence of corollary discharge dysfunction in schizophrenia during talking and thinking.

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  • 1Department of Psychiatry & Behavioral Sciences Stanford University School of Medicine, and Psychiatry Service, Veterans Affairs Medical Center, Palo Alto, USA.


Failure of corollary discharge, a mechanism for distinguishing self-generated from externally-generated percepts, has been posited to underlie certain positive symptoms of schizophrenia, including auditory hallucinations. Although originally described in the visual system, corollary discharge may exist in the auditory system, whereby signals from motor speech commands prepare auditory cortex for self-generated speech. While associated with sensorimotor systems, it might also apply to inner speech or thought, regarded as our most complex motor act. We had four aims in the studies summarized in this paper: (1) to demonstrate the corollary discharge phenomenon during talking and inner speech in human volunteers using event-related brain potentials (ERPs), (2) to demonstrate that the corollary discharge is abnormal in patients with schizophrenia, (3) to demonstrate the role of frontal speech areas in the corollary discharge during talking, and (4) to relate the dysfunction of the corollary discharge in schizophrenia to auditory hallucinations. Using EEG and ERP measures, we addressed each aim in patients with schizophrenia (DSM IV) and healthy control subjects. The N1 component of the ERP reflected dampening of auditory cortex responsivity during talking and inner speech in control subjects but not in patients. EEG measures of coherence indicated inter-dependence of activity in the frontal speech production and temporal speech reception areas during talking in control subjects, but not in patients, especially those who hallucinated. These data suggest that a corollary discharge from frontal areas where thoughts are generated fails to alert auditory cortex that they are self-generated, leading to the misattribution of inner speech to external sources and producing the experience of auditory hallucinations.

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