Abnormal cortical neural synchrony during working memory in schizophrenia

Seung Suk Kang, Angus W. MacDonald, Matthew V. Chafee, Chang Hwan Im, Edward M. Bernat, Nicholas D. Davenport, Scott R. Sponheim

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

21 Scopus citations


Objective To better understand the origins of working memory (WM) impairment in schizophrenia we investigated cortical oscillatory activity in people with schizophrenia (PSZ) while they performed a WM task requiring encoding, maintenance, and retrieval/manipulation processes of spatial information. Methods We examined time–frequency synchronous energy of cortical source signals that were derived from magnetoencephalography (MEG) localized to cortical regions using WM−related hemodynamic responses and individualized structural head-models. Results Compared to thirteen healthy controls (HC), twelve PSZ showed performance deficits regardless of WM−load or duration. During encoding, PSZ had early theta and delta event-related synchrony (ERS) deficits in prefrontal and visual cortices which worsened with greater memory load and predicted WM performance. During prolonged maintenance of material, PSZ showed deficient beta event-related desynchrony (ERD) in dorsolateral prefrontal, posterior parietal, and visual cortices. In retrieval, PSZ showed reduced delta/theta ERS in the anterior prefrontal and ventral visual cortices and diminished gamma ERS in the premotor and posterior parietal cortices. Conclusions Although beta/gamma cortical neural oscillatory deficits for maintenance/retrieval are evident during WM, the abnormal prefrontal theta-frequency ERS for encoding is most predictive of poor WM in schizophrenia. Significance Time-frequency-spatial analysis identified process- and frequency-specific neural synchrony abnormalities underlying WM deficits in schizophrenia.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)210-221
Number of pages12
JournalClinical Neurophysiology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2018

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was supported by grants from the National Institutes of Mental Health (grant numbers: 5R24MH069675 (SRS), RO1MH77779 , and R03MH106831 (SRS)), and by a grant from the Department of Veterans Affairs Clinical Science Research and Development Program ( I01CX000227 ) to Dr. Scott Sponheim, as well as by the Mental Health Patient Service Line at the Veterans Affairs Health Care System, Minneapolis, Minnesota, US. We are grateful to the participants and also for the efforts of Rachel Force, John J. Stanwyck, Amy Silberschmidt, and JoAn Laes.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2017 International Federation of Clinical Neurophysiology


  • Cortical source analysis
  • Magnetoencephalography (MEG)
  • Neural oscillation
  • Schizophrenia
  • Working memory


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