Are there common mechanisms in sensation seeking and reality distortion in schizophrenia? A study using memory event-related potentials

François Guillem, Tania Pampoulova, Emmanuel Stip, Christo Todorov, Pierre Lalonde

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Citations (Scopus)


A growing literature suggests that the characteristics of sensation seeking and reality distortion expressed in schizophrenia share several mechanisms. In a previous study, the comparison of patients with high vs. low reality distortion using event-related potentials (ERPs) recorded in a recognition memory task for unfamiliar faces identified neural and cognitive anomalies specifically related to the expression of these symptoms. As a follow-up, this study investigated the ERP correlates of sensation seeking in schizophrenia using the same recognition memory protocol. ERPs have been recorded in controls (N = 21) and schizophrenia patients separated into high (HSS; N = 13) and low (LSS; N = 17) scorers according to Zuckerman's Sensation Seeking Scale. The results show a reduced P2a that was found unrelated to reality distortion in the previous study of reality distortion. It identifies interference inhibition impairment as being specifically related to sensation seeking. On the other hand, HSS scorers display enhanced fronto-central and normal P600 effects also found in high reality distortion patients. These results indicate inappropriate context processing and mnemonic binding common to sensation seeking and reality distortion. LSS scorers also display a reduced temporal N300 similar to that found in low reality distortion patients. This anomaly could reflect the lower reactivity to emotionally significant stimuli that underlies anhedonia symptoms. Finally, the N400 effect and a late frontal effect are found in both HSS and LSS. Since they were unrelated to reality distortion, these indices have been related to basic aspects of schizophrenia, e.g., deficient knowledge integration, or other mechanisms, e.g. anxiety or impulsivity. In summary, the present study examines the strategy of investigating variables, such as temperamental characteristics, in addition to symptoms, to show how discrete impairments may contribute to the expression of the illness.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)11-33
Number of pages23
JournalPsychiatry Research
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - May 15 2005
Externally publishedYes


  • Context processing
  • Evoked potentials
  • Impulsivity
  • Inhibition
  • Mnemonic binding
  • Reality distortion
  • Sensation seeking

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Biological Psychiatry


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