Auditory sensory gating, assessed in a paired-click paradigm, indicates the extent to which incoming stimuli are filtered, or "gated", in auditory cortex. Gating is typically computed as the ratio of the peak amplitude of the event related potential (ERP) to a second click (S2) divided by the peak amplitude of the ERP to a first click (S1). Higher gating ratios are purportedly indicative of incomplete suppression of S2 and considered to represent sensory processing dysfunction. In schizophrenia, hallucination severity is positively correlated with gating ratios, and it was hypothesized that a failure of sensory control processes early in auditory sensation (gating) may represent a larger system failure within the auditory data stream; resulting in auditory verbal hallucinations (AVH). EEG data were collected while patients (N=12) with treatment-resistant AVH pressed a button to indicate the beginning (AVH-on) and end (AVH-off) of each AVH during a paired click protocol. For each participant, separate gating ratios were computed for the P50, N100, and P200 components for each of the AVH-off and AVH-on states. AVH trait severity was assessed using the Psychotic Symptoms Rating Scales AVH Total score (PSYRATS). The results of a mixed model ANOVA revealed an overall effect for AVH state, such that gating ratios were significantly higher during the AVH-on state than during AVH-off for all three components. PSYRATS score was significantly and negatively correlated with N100 gating ratio only in the AVH-off state. These findings link onset of AVH with a failure of an empirically-defined auditory inhibition system, auditory sensory gating, and pave the way for a sensory gating model of AVH.
Keywords: Auditory processing; Auditory sensory gating; Auditory verbal hallucinations; EEG; ERP; Hallucinations; Schizophrenia.
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