Electrophysiological Correlates of Aberrant Motivated Attention and Salience Processing in Unaffected Relatives of Schizophrenia Patients

Elizabeth H. Andersen*, Alana M. Campbell, Sarah E. Schipul, Carolyn M. Bellion, Franc C. L. Donkers, Anna M. Evans, Aysenil Belger

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Patients with schizophrenia (SCZ) exhibit debilitating deficits in attention and affective processing, which are often resistant to treatment and associated with poor functional outcomes. Impaired orientation to task-relevant target information has been indexed by diminished P3b event-related potentials in patients, as well as their unaffected first-degree relatives, suggesting that P3b may be a vulnerability marker for schizophrenia. Despite intact affective valence processing, patients are unable to employ cognitive change strategies to reduce electrophysiological responses to aversive stimuli. Less is known about the attentional processing of emotionally salient task-irrelevant information in patients and unaffected first-degree relatives. The goal of the present study was to examine the neural correlates of salience processing, as indexed by the late positive potential (LPP), during the processing of emotionally salient distractor stimuli in 31 patients with SCZ, 28 first-degree relatives, and 47 control participants using an oddball paradigm. Results indicated that despite intact novelty detection (P3a), both SCZ and first-degree relatives demonstrated deficiencies in attentional processing, reflected in attenuated target-P3b, and aberrant motivated attention, with reduced early-LPP amplitudes for aversive stimuli relative to controls. First-degree relatives revealed a unique enhancement of the late-LPP response, possibly underlying an exaggerated evaluation of salient information and a compensatory engagement of neural circuitry. Furthermore, reduced early-LPP and target-P3b amplitudes were associated with enhanced symptom severity. These findings suggest that, in addition to P3b, LPP may be useful for monitoring clinical state. Future studies will explore the value of P3 and LPP responses as vulnerability markers for early detection and prediction of psychopathology. ? EEG and Clinical Neuroscience Society (ECNS) 2015.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)11-23
JournalClinical Eeg and Neuroscience
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2016
Externally publishedYes


  • schizophrenia
  • familial high-risk
  • attention
  • emotion
  • event-related potentials (ERPs)


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