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Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Left auditory cortex gamma synchronization and auditory hallucination symptoms in schizophrenia

Kevin M Spencer1*, Margaret A Niznikiewicz2, Paul G Nestor34, Martha E Shenton35 and Robert W McCarley3

Author Affiliations

1 Research Service, Veterans Affairs Boston Healthcare System and Department of Psychiatry, Harvard Medical School, Research 151C, 150 S. Huntington Ave, Boston, MA 02130, USA

2 Research Service, Veterans Affairs Boston Healthcare System and Department of Psychiatry, Harvard Medical School, Psychiatry 116A, 940 Belmont St, Brockton, MA 02301, USA

3 Mental Health Service, Veterans Affairs Boston Healthcare System and Department of Psychiatry, Harvard Medical School, Psychiatry 116A, 940 Belmont St, Brockton, MA 02301, USA

4 Department of Psychology, University of Massachusetts, Boston, 100 Morrissey Blvd, Boston, MA 02125, USA

5 Department of Psychiatry, Brigham and Women's Hospital and Harvard Medical School, Psychiatry Neuroimaging Laboratory, 1249 Boylston St, Boston, MA 02215, USA

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BMC Neuroscience 2009, 10:85  doi:10.1186/1471-2202-10-85

Published: 20 July 2009

Abstract

Background

Oscillatory electroencephalogram (EEG) abnormalities may reflect neural circuit dysfunction in neuropsychiatric disorders. Previously we have found positive correlations between the phase synchronization of beta and gamma oscillations and hallucination symptoms in schizophrenia patients. These findings suggest that the propensity for hallucinations is associated with an increased tendency for neural circuits in sensory cortex to enter states of oscillatory synchrony. Here we tested this hypothesis by examining whether the 40 Hz auditory steady-state response (ASSR) generated in the left primary auditory cortex is positively correlated with auditory hallucination symptoms in schizophrenia. We also examined whether the 40 Hz ASSR deficit in schizophrenia was associated with cross-frequency interactions.

Sixteen healthy control subjects (HC) and 18 chronic schizophrenia patients (SZ) listened to 40 Hz binaural click trains. The EEG was recorded from 60 electrodes and average-referenced offline. A 5-dipole model was fit from the HC grand average ASSR, with 2 pairs of superior temporal dipoles and a deep midline dipole. Time-frequency decomposition was performed on the scalp EEG and source data.

Results

Phase locking factor (PLF) and evoked power were reduced in SZ at fronto-central electrodes, replicating prior findings. PLF was reduced in SZ for non-homologous right and left hemisphere sources. Left hemisphere source PLF in SZ was positively correlated with auditory hallucination symptoms, and was modulated by delta phase. Furthermore, the correlations between source evoked power and PLF found in HC was reduced in SZ for the LH sources.

Conclusion

These findings suggest that differential neural circuit abnormalities may be present in the left and right auditory cortices in schizophrenia. In addition, they provide further support for the hypothesis that hallucinations are related to cortical hyperexcitability, which is manifested by an increased propensity for high-frequency synchronization in modality-specific cortical areas.