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Berger, Barbara; Minarik, Tamas; Griesmayr, Birgit; Stelzig-Schoeler, Renate; Aichhorn, Wolfgang; Sauseng, Paul (2016): Brain Oscillatory Correlates of Altered Executive Functioning in Positive and Negative Symptomatic Schizophrenia Patients and Healthy Controls. In: Frontiers in Psychology, Vol. 7, 705
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Abstract

Working Memory and executive functioning deficits are core characteristics of patients suffering from schizophrenia. Electrophysiological research indicates that altered patterns of neural oscillatory mechanisms underpinning executive functioning are associated with the psychiatric disorder. Such brain oscillatory changes have been found in local amplitude differences at gamma and theta frequencies in task-specific cortical areas. Moreover, interregional interactions are also disrupted as signified by decreased phase coherence of fronto-posterior theta activity in schizophrenia patients. However, schizophrenia is not a one-dimensional psychiatric disorder but has various forms and expressions. A common distinction is between positive and negative symptomatology but most patients have both negative and positive symptoms to some extent. Here, we examined three groups healthy controls, predominantly negative, and predominantly positive symptomatic schizophrenia patients when performing a working memory task with increasing cognitive demand and increasing need for executive control. We analyzed brain oscillatory activity in the three groups separately and investigated how predominant symptomatology might explain differences in brain oscillatory patterns. Our results indicate that differences in task specific fronto-posterior network activity (i.e., executive control network) expressed by interregional phase synchronization are able to account for working memory dysfunctions between groups. Local changes in the theta and gamma frequency range also show differences between patients and healthy controls, and more importantly, between the two patient groups. We conclude that differences in oscillatory brain activation patterns related to executive processing can be an indicator for positive and negative symptomatology in schizophrenia. Furthermore, changes in cognitive and especially executive functioning in patients are expressed by alterations in a task -specific fronto-posterior connectivity even in the absence of behavioral impairment.