In healthy humans, it has been shown that executive functions are associated with increased frontal-midline EEG theta activity and theta phase coupling between frontal and posterior brain regions. In individuals with schizophrenia, central executive functions are supposed to be heavily impaired. Given that theta phase coupling is causally involved in central executive functions, one would expect that patients with an executive function deficit should display abnormal EEG theta synchronization. We therefore investigated executive functioning in 21 healthy controls and 21 individuals with schizophrenia while they performed a visuospatial delayed match to sample task. The task required either high executive demands (manipulation of content in working memory [WM]) or low executive demands (retention of WM content). In addition, WM load (one vs. three items) was varied. Results indicated higher frontal theta activity for manipulation processes than for retention processes in patients with schizophrenia, as compared with healthy controls, independently of WM load. Furthermore, individuals with schizophrenia revealed a reduction in theta phase coupling during early stages of the delay period for retention, as well as for manipulation processes at high-WM loads. Deviations in theta phase coupling in individuals with schizophrenia were mainly characterized by aberrant fronto-posterior connections, but also by attenuated posterior connections during manipulation of high-WM load. To conclude, fronto-parietal theta coupling seems to be substantially involved in executive control, whereas frontal theta activity seems to reflect general task demands, such as deployment of attentional resources during WM.
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Psychiatric Status Rating Scales
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