Objective: Patients with schizophrenia spectrum disorders have been shown to have deficits in sensorimotor gating as assessed by prepulse inhibition of the startle response. The authors hypothesized that nonschizophrenic relatives of patients with schizophrenia would also have prepulse inhibition deficits, thereby reflecting a genetically transmitted susceptibility to sensorimotor gating deficits.
Method: Twenty-five comparison subjects, 23 patients with schizophrenia, 34 relatives of the schizophrenic patients, and 11 subjects with schizotypal personality disorder were assessed in an acoustic startle paradigm. The eye-blink component of the startle response was assessed bilaterally by using electromyographic recordings of orbicularis oculi.
Results: The patients with schizophrenia, their relatives, and subjects with schizotypal personality disorder all had reduced prepulse inhibition relative to comparison subjects, and these deficits were more evident in measures of right eye-blink prepulse inhibition. Comparison subjects demonstrated greater right versus left eye-blink prepulse inhibition, whereas the probands, their relatives, and subjects with schizotypal personality disorder showed less asymmetry of prepulse inhibition.
Conclusions: These data suggest a genetically transmitted deficit in prepulse inhibition (sensorimotor gating) in patients with schizophrenia spectrum disorders, including subjects with schizotypal personality disorder and relatives of patients with schizophrenia.