Background: Schizophrenics show deficits in sensorimotor gating, as measured by prepulse inhibition of acoustic startle (PPI). The goal of this investigation is to further characterize PPI and habituation deficits in schizophrenia, and to examine whether differing subgroups of schizophrenics would show comparable PPI deficits.
Methods: PPI was measured in 24 male schizophrenic subjects (9 acutely decompensated inpatients and 15 stable outpatients) and in 20 age-matched normal control subjects. Schizophrenic subjects were rated for positive and negative symptoms at the time of testing.
Results: Schizophrenic subjects showed deficits in prepulse inhibition and habituation as compared to normal subjects. Similar latency facilitation was produced by the prepulse in both groups. Acutely decompensated inpatients and stable outpatients did not differ in percent PPI. PPI did not correlate with severity of positive or negative symptoms.
Conclusions: These results suggest that schizophrenic subjects have impaired central inhibitory mechanisms as measured by PPI, and support the hypothesis that periods of relative clinical remission are not accompanied by normalization of sensorimotor gating.