A deviant EEG brain microstate in acute, neuroleptic-naive schizophrenics at rest

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Momentary brain electric field configurations are manifestations of momentary global functional states of the brain. Field configurations tend to persist over some time in the sub-second range (“microstates”) and concentrate within few classes of configurations. Accordingly, brain field data can be reduced efficiently into sequences of re-occurring classes of brain microstates, not overlapping in time. Different configurations must have been caused by different active neural ensembles, and thus different microstates assumedly implement different functions. The question arises whether the aberrant schizophrenic mentation is associated with specific changes in the repertory of microstates. Continuous sequences of brain electric field maps (multichannel EEG resting data) from 9 neuroleptic-naive, first-episode, acute schizophrenics and from 18 matched controls were analyzed. The map series were assigned to four individual microstate classes; these were tested for differences between groups.

One microstate class displayed significantly different field configurations and shorter durations in patients than controls; degree of shortening correlated with severity of paranoid symptomatology. The three other microstate classes showed no group differences related to psychopathology. Schizophrenic thinking apparently is not a continuous bias in brain functions, but consists of intermittent occurrences of inappropriate brain microstates that open access to inadequate processing strategies and context information

Received: 4 November 1998 / Accepted: 20 May 1999