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Schizophr Res. 2011 Mar;126(1-3):36-42. doi: 10.1016/j.schres.2010.10.001. Epub 2010 Oct 30.

An MEG study of alpha modulation in patients with schizophrenia and in subjects at high risk of developing psychosis.

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Clinical Cognitive Neuroscience Center, Neuroscience Institute, SNU-MRC, Seoul, Republic of Korea.



Selective attention involves a dynamic interaction between attentional control systems and brain oscillations. In auditory processing, selective attention toward task-relevant stimuli and the inhibition of irrelevant information can be considered as aspects of top-down attentional control. Oscillatory rhythms in the alpha band have been found to play an important role during top-down processing. Because attention deficits have been noted in patients with schizophrenia, we examined alpha oscillations in schizophrenia and in the prodromal phase of psychosis.


The present study compared alpha oscillations using measures of both spectral power and inter-trial coherence in 17 subjects at ultra-high-risk, 10 patients with schizophrenia, and 18 matched normal control subjects. Whole-head magnetoencephalography (MEG) was conducted during an auditory oddball task to investigate alpha brain activity related to selective attention to target stimuli and selective inhibition of irrelevant stimuli.


Patients with schizophrenia showed diminished alpha event-related desynchronization compared with the control subjects, while the ultra-high-risk subjects had values intermediate between the control subjects and schizophrenia patients. Similarly, alpha inter-trial phase coherence was lower in the schizophrenia patients than the ultra-high-risk subjects, and lower in the ultra-high-risk subjects than the normal control subjects. Furthermore, alpha band activity in the parieto-occipital region was more severely depressed in the schizophrenia patients than the ultra-high-risk subjects.


The altered alpha band activity in the ultra-high-risk group indicates that a deficit in top-down attentional control exists before the onset of psychosis. The alpha event-related desynchronization and inter-trial coherence may reflect a functional decline in the prodromal phase of schizophrenia.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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