Electrodermal predictors of functional outcome and negative symptoms in schizophrenia


  • This research was supported by U.S. Public Health Service grants MH-37705 (Keith Nuechterlein, P.I.), MH-30911 (Robert Liberman, P.I.), and MH46433 (Michael Dawson, P.I.) from the National Institute of Mental Health.

  • We thank the following individuals for helping with data collection: Craig Childress, Rhonda Daily, Karen Hemmerling, Cheryl Fogel, and Kenneth Zaucha. For assistance in data scoring and management, we thank Penny Jennings, Christopher Ladner, Michael Runyon, Marilyn Runyon, Mitchell Stoddard, and Lauren Weinstock. For computer data scoring programs we are grateful to Barbara Carlton, Bill Troyer, and William C. Williams. We acknowledge the help of the following individuals with administering and scoring the Brief Psychiatric Rating Scale: Sally Friedlob, Debbie Gioia-Hasick, David Lukoff, Sandy Rappe, Margie Stratton, and Joseph Tietz. Training in the use of the BPRS was provided by the Diagnosis and Pathology Unit of the UCLA Clinical Research Center for the Study of Schizophrenia. Statistical advice and assistance were provided by Jim Mintz and Sun Hwang of the Methodological and Statistical Unit of the UCLA Clinical Research Center for the Study of Schizophrenia. We thank treating psychiatrists at the UCLA Aftercare Research Program George Bartzokis and David Fogelson. Finally, we thank Robert P. Liberman for his leadership of the UCLA Clinical Research Center for the Study of Schizophrenia.

Address reprint requests to: Anne M. Schell, Psychology Department, Occidental College, 1600 Campus Road, Los Angeles, CA 90041, USA. E-mail: Schell@oxy.edu.


The ability of electrodermal variables to predict negative symptoms and functional outcome over a 1-year period in schizophrenia was investigated in 78 young, recent-onset outpatients. Patients were stabilized on standardized medication and largely free of psychotic symptoms. Higher levels of both tonic (skin conductance level, nonspecific skin conductance response rate) and phasic (number of skin conductance orienting responses) activity were associated with more negative symptoms and with a combination of poorer social and occupational outcome at 1-year follow-up. This pattern was seen in both male and female patients, and in older and younger patients. Results are interpreted as suggesting that high levels of arousal and overreactivity to the environment may interfere with efficient cognitive processing in schizophrenia, contributing to poor outcome, and that negative symptoms might partially serve as a means of coping with overarousal.