Sensory integration deficits support a dimensional view of psychosis and are not limited to schizophrenia

O. Carter, D. Bennett, T. Nash, S. Arnold, L. Brown, R. Y. Cai, Z. Allan, A. Dluzniak, K. McAnally, D. Burr, S. Sundram

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18 Citations (Scopus)


Visual dysfunction is commonplace in schizophrenia and occurs alongside cognitive, psychotic and affective symptoms of the disorder. Psychophysical evidence suggests that this dysfunction results from impairments in the integration of low-level neural signals into complex cortical representations, which may also be associated with symptom formation. Despite the symptoms of schizophrenia occurring in a range of disorders, the integration deficit has not been tested in broader patient populations. Moreover, it remains unclear whether such deficits generalize across other sensory modalities. The present study assessed patients with a range of psychotic and nonpsychotic disorders and healthy controls on visual contrast detection, visual motion integration, auditory tone detection and auditory tone integration. The sample comprised a total of 249 participants (schizophrenia spectrum disorder n = 98; bipolar affective disorder n = 35; major depression n = 31; other psychiatric conditions n = 31; and healthy controls n=54), of whom 178 completed one or more visual task and 71 completed auditory tasks. Compared with healthy controls and nonpsychotic patients, psychotic patients trans-diagnostically were impaired on both visual and auditory integration, but unimpaired in simple visual or auditory detection. Impairment in visual motion integration was correlated with the severity of positive symptoms, and could not be accounted for by a reduction in processing speed, inattention or medication effects. Our results demonstrate that impaired sensory integration is not specific to schizophrenia, as has previously been assumed. Instead, sensory deficits are closely related to the presence of positive symptoms independent of diagnosis. The finding that equivalent integrative sensory processing is impaired in audition is consistent with hypotheses that propose a generalized deficit of neural integration in psychotic disorders.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere1118
Number of pages8
JournalTranslational Psychiatry
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 9 May 2017

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