Background and Objectives: Mismatch negativity (MMN) is an event-related potential (ERP) measure of preattentional sensory processing. While deficits in the auditory MMN are robust electrophysiological findings in schizophrenia, little is known about visual mismatch response and its association with social cognitive functions such as emotion recognition in schizophrenia. Our aim was to study the potential deficit in the visual mismatch response to unexpected facial emotions in schizophrenia and its association with emotion recognition impairments, and to localize the sources of the mismatch signals.
Experimental Design: The sample comprised 24 patients with schizophrenia and 24 healthy control subjects. Controls were matched individually to patients by gender, age, and education. ERPs were recorded using a high-density 128-channel BioSemi amplifier. Mismatch responses to happy and fearful faces were determined in 2 time windows over six regions of interest (ROIs). Emotion recognition performance and its association with the mismatch response were also investigated.
Principal Observations: Mismatch signals to both emotional conditions were significantly attenuated in patients compared to controls in central and temporal ROIs. Controls recognized emotions significantly better than patients. The association between overall emotion recognition performance and mismatch response to the happy condition was significant in the 250–360 ms time window in the central ROI. The estimated sources of the mismatch responses for both emotional conditions were localized in frontal regions, where patients showed significantly lower activity.
Conclusions: Impaired generation of mismatch signals indicate insufficient automatic processing of emotions in patients with schizophrenia, which correlates strongly with decreased emotion recognition.