Schizophrenia patients have prominent deficits in information processing that can be detected by measures of prepulse inhibition (PPI) of the startle response. Deficient PPI in schizophrenia is thought to reflect a failure of brain-based information 'protective' mechanisms that normally inhibit responsivity for 30-500ms after a weak prepulse stimulus. The relationship between specific prepulse stimulus characteristics and PPI deficits in this study was examined in 31 schizophrenia patients and 34 normal comparison subjects. Schizophrenia patients had overall deficits in PPI across four conditions where the prepulse was either discrete (abrupt) or continuous (sustained) and consisted of either white noise or a pure tone. On inspection and analysis of the data, it appears that the white noise conditions, rather than tone conditions, account for the group differences. Thus, the discrete white noise prepulse was most effective in eliciting PPI deficits, resulting in a large effect size between groups (d=0.85; P<0.01). Deficits in information-protective mechanisms in schizophrenia may be differentially sensitive to specific stimulus characteristics; this observation may be relevant both to the neurobiology of information processing deficits in schizophrenia and to the methodologies for studying these deficits experimentally.