Eye-blink conditioning deficits indicate temporal processing abnormalities in schizophrenia

Schizophr Res. 2009 Jun;111(1-3):182-91. doi: 10.1016/j.schres.2009.03.016. Epub 2009 Apr 5.


Theoretical models suggest that symptoms of schizophrenia may be due to a dysfunctional modulatory system associated with the cerebellum. Although it has long been known that the cerebellum plays a critical role in associative learning and motor timing, recent evidence suggests that it also plays a role in nonmotor psychological processes. Indeed, cerebellar anomalies in schizophrenia have been linked to cognitive dysfunction and poor long-term outcome. To test the hypothesis that schizophrenia is associated with cerebellar dysfunction, cerebellar-dependent, delay eye-blink conditioning was examined in 62 individuals with schizophrenia and 62 age-matched non-psychiatric comparison subjects. The conditioned stimulus was a 400 ms tone, which co-terminated with a 50 ms unconditioned stimulus air puff. A subset of participants (25 with schizophrenia and 29 controls) also completed the Wechsler Abbreviated Scale of Intelligence. Participants with schizophrenia exhibited lower rates of eye-blink conditioning, including earlier (less adaptively timed) conditioned response latencies. Cognitive functioning was correlated with the rate of conditioned responsing in the non-psychiatric comparison subjects but not among those with schizophrenia, and the magnitude of these correlations significantly differed between groups. These findings are consistent with models of schizophrenia in which disruptions within the cortico-cerebellar-thalamic-cortical (CCTC) brain circuit are postulated to underlie the cognitive fragmentation that characterizes the disorder.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Acoustic Stimulation / adverse effects
  • Adult
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Cerebellar Diseases / complications*
  • Cognition Disorders / etiology*
  • Conditioning, Eyelid / physiology*
  • Electromyography / methods
  • Extinction, Psychological
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Intelligence Tests
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neuropsychological Tests
  • Physical Stimulation / adverse effects
  • Reaction Time / physiology
  • Schizophrenia / complications*
  • Schizophrenic Psychology*