Deficits in attention and cognition are common in schizophrenia. Using an auditory dual-click paradigm, a number of studies have found that, compared with normal controls, patients with schizophrenia show impaired inhibition, or gating, of repeated stimulation as measured by the average P50 evoked response to the second click. Since responses to many trials are collected to study the average response, fluctuations in the timing of the P50 response from trial to trial may influence the differences observed. We present a computerized, objective procedure that evaluates temporal variability in brain responses of patients with schizophrenia.
Ten normal controls and 10 patients diagnosed with schizophrenia were studied using the dual-click procedure. For each single trial, the temporal shift in P50 that yielded the best alignment with the average P50 response was used to derive a measure of P50 temporal variability from trial to trial and to form P50 averages corrected for temporal variability.
Patients with schizophrenia had significantly more temporal variability than normal controls. Correction for temporal variability in the P50 responses increased the size of P50 for both patients with schizophrenia and normal controls. Patients with schizophrenia had smaller P50 responses to the first click than controls and less inhibition to the second click before, but not after, correction for temporal variability.
These findings suggest that temporal variability contributes significantly to the P50 response as measured using the gating procedure. The measure of temporal variability may provide a new index of inhibitory and attentional function in schizophrenia.