ERP abnormalities during semantic processing in schizophrenia

Adams J, Faux SF, Nestor PG, Shenton ME, Marcy B, Smith S, McCarley RW

Schizophr. Res. 1993 Oct;10(3):247-57

PMID: 8260443


To examine the neurophysiological and cognitive characteristics of thought disturbance in schizophrenic patients, we examined the amplitude, latency, and topography of a specific event-related brain potential (ERP), the N400, which is elicited by semantically incongruent words and phrases. Twelve chronic schizophrenic patients and twelve age-matched control subjects read sentences presented visually that had either semantically correct (e.g., ‘People pray in their local church’) or incorrect endings (e.g., ‘Every Sunday morning people pray in their local nest’). Relative to normal controls, schizophrenic patients had significantly reduced N400 amplitude and increased latency to semantically anomalous endings. Additionally, a late positive component which follows the N400 was significantly reduced in amplitude in schizophrenic patients. However, patients and controls did not differ significantly in terms of the topographical distribution of either the N400 or its late positive potential, examined at 28 electrode sites. Thus, N400 topography in schizophrenic patients was not accompanied by the asymmetry which frequently characterizes the well known auditory P300 disturbance in schizophrenic patients. We concluded that these findings may reflect a profound disturbance in attentional processes in chronic schizophrenia.