Event-related potentials and changes of brain rhythm oscillations during working memory activation in patients with first-episode psychosis
Background: Earlier contributions have documented significant changes in sensory, attention-related endogenous event-related potential (ERP) components and theta band oscillatory responses during working memory activation in patients with schizophrenia. In patients with first-episode psychosis, such studies are still scarce and mostly focused on auditory sensory processing. The present study aimed to explore whether subtle deficits of cortical activation are present in these patients before the decline of working memory performance. Methods: We assessed exogenous and endogenous ERPs and frontal theta event-related synchronization (ERS) in patients with first-episode psychosis and healthy controls who successfully performed an adapted 2-back working memory task, including 2 visual n-back working memory tasks as well as oddball detection and passive fixation tasks. Results: We included 15 patients with first-episode psychosis and 18 controls in this study. Compared with controls, patients with first-episode psychosis displayed increased latencies of early visual ERPs and phasic theta ERS culmination peak in all conditions. However, they also showed a rapid recruitment of working memory related neural generators, even in pure attention tasks, as indicated by the decreased N200 latency and increased amplitude of sustained theta ERS in detection compared with controls. Limitations: Owing to the limited sample size, no distinction was made between patients with first-episode psychosis with positive and negative symptoms. Although we controlled for the global load of neuroleptics, medication effect cannot be totally ruled out. Conclusion: The present findings support the concept of a blunted electroencephalographic response in patients with first-episode psychosis who recruit the maximum neural generators in simple attention conditions without being able to modulate their brain activation with increased complexity of working memory tasks.