In real-world settings, information from multiple sensory modalities is combined to form a complete, behaviorally salient percept - a process known as multisensory integration. While deficits in auditory and visual processing are often observed in schizophrenia, little is known about how multisensory integration is affected by the disorder. The present study examined auditory, visual, and combined audio-visual processing in schizophrenia patients using high-density electrical mapping. An ecologically relevant task was used to compare unisensory and multisensory evoked potentials from schizophrenia patients to potentials from healthy normal volunteers. Analysis of unisensory responses revealed a large decrease in the N100 component of the auditory-evoked potential, as well as early differences in the visual-evoked components in the schizophrenia group. Differences in early evoked responses to multisensory stimuli were also detected. Multisensory facilitation was assessed by comparing the sum of auditory and visual evoked responses to the audio-visual evoked response. Schizophrenia patients showed a significantly greater absolute magnitude response to audio-visual stimuli than to summed unisensory stimuli when compared to healthy volunteers, indicating significantly greater multisensory facilitation in the patient group. Behavioral responses also indicated increased facilitation from multisensory stimuli. The results represent the first report of increased multisensory facilitation in schizophrenia and suggest that, although unisensory deficits are present, compensatory mechanisms may exist under certain conditions that permit improved multisensory integration in individuals afflicted with the disorder.
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