Synch Before You Speak: Auditory Hallucinations in Schizophrenia

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Abstract

Objective

Synchronization of neural activity preceding self-generated actions may reflect the operation of the forward model, which acts to dampen sensations resulting from those actions. If this is true, pre-action synchrony should be related to subsequent sensory suppression. Deficits in this mechanism may be characteristic of schizophrenia and related to positive symptoms, such as auditory hallucinations. If so, schizophrenia patients should have reduced neural synchrony preceding movements, especially patients with severe hallucinations.

Method

In 24 patients with schizophrenia or schizoaffective disorder and 25 healthy comparison subjects, the authors related prespeech neural synchrony to subsequent auditory cortical responsiveness to the spoken sound, compared prespeech neural synchrony in schizophrenia patients and healthy comparison subjects, and related prespeech neural synchrony to auditory hallucination severity in patients. To assess neural synchrony, phase coherence of single-trial EEG preceding talking was calculated at a single site across repeated trials. To assess auditory cortical suppression, the N1 event-related brain potentials to speech sound onset during talking and listening were compared.

Results

In healthy comparison subjects, prespeech neural synchrony was related to subsequent suppression of responsiveness to the spoken sound, as reflected in reduction of N1 during talking relative to listening. There was greater prespeech synchrony in comparison subjects than in patients, especially those with severe auditory hallucinations.

Conclusions

These data suggest that EEG synchrony preceding speech reflects the action of a forward model system, which dampens auditory responsiveness to self-generated speech and is deficient in patients who hallucinate.

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