Neurophysiological responses to unpleasant stimuli (acute electrical stimulations and emotional pictures) are increased in patients with schizophrenia

Abstract : Patients with schizophrenia have often been described as insensitive to nociceptive signals, but objective evidence is sparse. We address this question by combining subjective behavioral and objective neurochemical and neurophysiological measures. The present study involved 21 stabilized and mildly symptomatic patients with schizophrenia and 21 control subjects. We applied electrical stimulations below the pain threshold and assessed sensations of pain and unpleasantness with rating scales, and Somatosensory Evoked Potentials (SEPs/EEG). We also measured attention, two neurochemical stress indices (ACTH/cortisol), and subjective VEPs/EEG responses to visual emotional stimuli. Our results revealed that, subjectively, patients' evaluations do not differ from controls. However, the amplitude of EEG evoked potentials was greater in patients than controls as early as 50 ms after electrical stimulations and beyond one second after visual processing of emotional pictures. Such responses could not be linked to the stress induced by the stimulations, since stress hormone levels were stable. Nor was there a difference between patients and controls in respect of attention performance and tactile sensitivity. Taken together, all indices measured in patients in our study were either heightened or equivalent relative to healthy volunteers.
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Céline Duval, Yannick Goumon, Véronique Kemmel, Jürgen Kornmeier, André Dufour, et al.. Neurophysiological responses to unpleasant stimuli (acute electrical stimulations and emotional pictures) are increased in patients with schizophrenia. Scientific Reports, Nature Publishing Group, 2016, 6 (22542), ⟨10.1038/srep22542⟩. ⟨inserm-01593419⟩

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