Abnormal early brain responses during visual search are evident in schizophrenia but not bipolar affective disorder

Nicolaas J. VanMeerten, Rachel E. Dubke, John J. Stanwyck, Seung Suk Kang, Scott R. Sponheim

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


People with schizophrenia show deficits in processing visual stimuli but neural abnormalities underlying the deficits are unclear and it is unknown whether such functional brain abnormalities are present in other severe mental disorders or in individuals who carry genetic liability for schizophrenia.To better characterize brain responses underlying visual search deficits and test their specificity to schizophrenia we gathered behavioral and electrophysiological responses during visual search (i.e., Span of Apprehension [SOA] task) from 38 people with schizophrenia, 31 people with bipolar disorder, 58 biological relatives of people with schizophrenia, 37 biological relatives of people with bipolar disorder, and 65 non-psychiatric control participants.Through subtracting neural responses associated with purely sensory aspects of the stimuli we found that people with schizophrenia exhibited reduced early posterior task-related neural responses (i.e., Span Endogenous Negativity [SEN]) while other groups showed normative responses. People with schizophrenia exhibited longer reaction times than controls during visual search but nearly identical accuracy. Those individuals with schizophrenia who had larger SENs performed more efficiently (i.e., shorter reaction times) on the SOA task suggesting that modulation of early visual cortical responses facilitated their visual search. People with schizophrenia also exhibited a diminished P300 response compared to other groups. Unaffected first-degree relatives of people with bipolar disorder and schizophrenia showed an amplified N1 response over posterior brain regions in comparison to other groups.Diminished early posterior brain responses are associated with impaired visual search in schizophrenia and appear to be specifically associated with the neuropathology of schizophrenia.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)102-108
Number of pages7
JournalSchizophrenia Research
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2016

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was supported by the Veterans Health Administration ( CSMRF I01CX000227 to SRS) and the Mental Health Patient Service Line at the Minneapolis VA Medical Center.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2015 Elsevier B.V.


  • Attention
  • Bipolar affective disorder
  • Endophenotype
  • Event-related potential
  • Schizophrenia
  • Visual search


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