BACKGROUND: Converging evidence indicates that neural oscillations coordinate activity across brain areas, a process which is seemingly perturbed in schizophrenia. In particular, beta (13-30 Hz) and gamma (30-50 Hz) oscillations were repeatedly found to be disturbed in schizophrenia and linked to clinical symptoms. However, it remains unknown whether abnormalities in current source density (CSD) and lagged phase synchronization of oscillations across distributed regions of the brain already occur in patients with an at-risk mental state (ARMS) for psychosis.
METHODS: To further elucidate this issue, we assessed resting-state EEG data of 63 ARMS patients and 29 healthy controls (HC). Twenty-three ARMS patients later made a transition to psychosis (ARMS-T) and 40 did not (ARMS-NT). CSD and lagged phase synchronization of neural oscillations across brain areas were assessed using eLORETA and their relationships to neurocognitive deficits and clinical symptoms were analyzed using linear mixed-effects models.
RESULTS: ARMS-T patients showed higher gamma activity in the medial prefrontal cortex compared to HC, which was associated with abstract reasoning abilities in ARMS-T. Furthermore, in ARMS-T patients lagged phase synchronization of beta oscillations decreased more over Euclidian distance compared to ARMS-NT and HC. Finally, this steep spatial decrease of phase synchronicity was most pronounced in ARMS-T patients with high positive and negative symptoms scores.
CONCLUSIONS: These results indicate that patients who will later make the transition to psychosis are characterized by impairments in localized and synchronized neural oscillations providing new insights into the pathophysiological mechanisms of schizophrenic psychoses and may be used to improve the prediction of psychosis.