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Schizophr Res. 2012 Aug;139(1-3):237-45. doi: 10.1016/j.schres.2012.06.004. Epub 2012 Jun 22.

Alterations of mismatch negativity (MMN) in schizophrenia patients with auditory hallucinations experiencing acute exacerbation of illness.

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Department of Psychology, Mount Saint Vincent University, Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada.


Auditory verbal hallucinations (AHs), or hearing 'voices', are one of the hallmark symptoms of patients with schizophrenia. The primary objective of this study was to compare hallucinating schizophrenia patients with respect to differences in deviance detection, as indexed by the auditory mismatch negativity (MMN). Patients were recruited during an acute psychotic episode requiring hospitalization, during which time symptoms of psychosis, including auditory hallucinations, are likely to be at their most severe. MMNs to duration, frequency, gap, intensity and location deviants (as elicited by the 'optimal' multi-feature paradigm) were recorded in 12 acutely ill schizophrenia patients (SZ) with persistent AHs and 15 matched healthy controls (HC). Electrical activity was recorded from 32 scalp electrodes. MMN amplitudes and latencies for each deviant were compared between groups and were correlated with trait (PSYRATS) and state measures of AH severity and Positive and Negative Syndrome Scale (PANSS) ratings in SZs. There were significant group differences for duration, gap, intensity and location MMN amplitudes, such that SZs exhibited reduced MMNs compared to HCs. Additionally, gap MMN amplitudes were correlated with measures of hallucinatory state and frequency of AHs, while location MMN was correlated with perceived location of AHs. In summary, this study corroborates previous research reporting a robust duration MMN deficit in schizophrenia, as well as reporting gap, intensity and location MMN deficits in acutely ill schizophrenia patients with persistent AHs. Additionally, MMN amplitudes were correlated with state and trait measures of AHs. These findings offer further support to previous work suggesting that the presence of auditory hallucinations may make a significant contribution to the widely reported MMN deficits in schizophrenia.

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