Electrophysiological Correlates of Reward Anticipation in Subjects with Schizophrenia: An ERP Microstate Study

Brain Topogr. 2023 Jul 5. doi: 10.1007/s10548-023-00984-7. Online ahead of print.


The current study aimed to investigate alterations of event-related potentials (ERPs) microstate during reward anticipation in subjects with schizophrenia (SCZ), and their association with hedonic experience and negative symptoms. EEG data were recorded in thirty SCZ and twenty-three healthy controls (HC) during the monetary incentive delay task in which reward, loss and neutral cues were presented. Microstate analysis and standardized low-resolution electromagnetic tomography (sLORETA) were applied to EEG data. Furthermore, analyses correlating a topographic index (the ERPs score), calculated to quantify brain activation in relationship to the microstate maps, and scales assessing hedonic experience and negative symptoms were performed. Alterations in the first (125.0-187.5 ms) and second (261.7-414.1 ms) anticipatory cue-related microstate classes were observed. In SCZ, reward cues were associated to shorter duration and earlier offset of the first microstate class as compared to the neutral condition. In the second microstate class, the area under the curve was smaller for both reward and loss anticipation cues in SCZ as compared to HC. Furthermore, significant correlations between ERPs scores and the anticipation of pleasure scores were detected, while no significant association was found with negative symptoms. sLORETA analysis showed that hypo-activation of the cingulate cortex, insula, orbitofrontal and parietal cortex was detected in SCZ as compared to HC. Abnormalities in ERPs could be traced already during the early stages of reward processing and were associated with the anticipation of pleasure, suggesting that these dysfunctions might impair effective evaluation of incoming pleasant experiences. Negative symptoms and anhedonia are partially independent results.

Keywords: Anhedonia; Brain electrical microstates; EEG; ERPs; Reward anticipation; Schizophrenia.