15. Electrophysiology of Schizophrenia

  1. Daniel R. Weinberger MD4 and
  2. Paul J. Harrison MA, BM, BCh, DM(Oxon), FRCPsych5
  1. Georg Winterer MD, PhD1 and
  2. Robert W. McCarley MD2,3

Published Online: 8 MAR 2011

DOI: 10.1002/9781444327298.ch15

Schizophrenia, Third Edition

Schizophrenia, Third Edition

How to Cite

Winterer, G. and McCarley, R. W. (2011) Electrophysiology of Schizophrenia, in Schizophrenia, Third Edition (eds D. R. Weinberger and P. J. Harrison), Wiley-Blackwell, Oxford, UK. doi: 10.1002/9781444327298.ch15

Editor Information

  1. 4

    Genes, Cognition and Psychosis Program, Clinical Studies Section, Clinical Brain Disorders Branch, National Institute of Health, Bethesda, MD, USA

  2. 5

    Department of Psychiatry, University of Oxford, Warneford Hospital, Oxford, UK

Author Information

  1. 1

    Cologne Center for Genomics (CCG), University of Cologne, Germany

  2. 2

    Harvard Department of Psychiatry, Brockton, MA, USA

  3. 3

    Mental Health Service, VA Boston Healthcare System, Brockton, MA, USA

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 8 MAR 2011
  2. Published Print: 10 DEC 2010

ISBN Information

Print ISBN: 9781405176972

Online ISBN: 9781444327298



  • schizophrenia;
  • electroencephalogram;
  • event-related potentials;
  • mismatch negativity;
  • P300;
  • gamma oscillations;
  • theta oscillations;
  • signal-to-noise ratio


The electroencephalogram (EEG) was the first physiological technique used to examine brain activity. As a result of the ever-growing computational power, the EEG has now evolved into a highly sophisticated method for studying brain information processing activity. In particular, during the last decade, electrophysiology has gained tremendous momentum due to the introduction of source localization techniques, the decomposition of event-related activity in its frequency components, and the combined use with other imaging techniques. With regard to schizophrenia research, these methodological advances have opened entirely new avenues to understand the pathophysiology of this illness. We first provide a brief introduction to current state-of-the-art EEG methodology. This is followed by an overview of key event-related potential (ERP) studies in schizophrenia research focusing on the mismatch negativity (MMN) and P300. Subsequently, event-related oscillatory abnormalities in schizophrenia in the gamma and theta frequency range are described, as elicited both in steady-state and event-related paradigms. In this discussion we first focus on the relationship of gamma abnormalities to the neurobiology of schizophrenia and abnormalities of GABAergic and NMDA neurotransmission and interaction. We next highlight the concept of abnormal signal-to-noise ratio as a putative marker for disorganized neuronal firing in schizophrenia. Throughout, every effort is made to link particular electrophysiological features with relevant aspects of schizophrenia illness, including psychopathology, clinical outcome, neuropsycology, genetics and pharmacology. Ultimately, we hope that the reader may find this chapter helpful as a basis for generating novel ideas and hypotheses to promote our future understanding of schizophrenia pathophysiology.