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Music-elicited EEG Activity, Autonomic Physiology, and Emotion Responses are Altered in Schizophrenia

Faculty Supervisor:
Dwight Krehbiel
Year of Project Completion:
Rondell Burge


Professor Paul Lewis also supervised this project - a senior thesis project, paper, and presentation. Studies of patients with schizophrenia using facial affect recognition and voice discrimination tasks have identified emotional dysfunction as a prominent clinical feature. In the present study we examine whether emotion processing in patients is also impaired in a less explicitly social context, continuous self-report of emotions during music using a two-dimensional emotion space. Electroencephalographic (EEG) activity was also recorded during this task since previous studies have shown that positive emotion is accompanied by greater activation (lower power in the alpha band) in the left frontal lobes while negative emotion shifts activation to the right. Ten individuals with schizophrenia and twelve controls listened to five 25-second excerpts. Each piece followed a one-minute baseline recording. Data analysis focused on the last 15 seconds of each excerpt. The pattern of pleasantness rating differences among excerpts in controls was very similar to that seen in a previous experiment in our laboratory with 23 participants. A quite different pattern of pleasantness ratings across excerpts, in general a less differentiated one, emerged in schizophrenic patients. These differences between patients and controls were significant in a repeated-measures analysis of variance (f(4,600=3.32, Huynh-Feldt corrected p = 0.023). Wavelet-based time-frequency analysis for each piece showed more activation (lower alpha power) in the left frontal lobes than in the right for controls and the opposite pattern of differences for schizophrenic patients. Thus, individuals with schizophrenia interpret emotion-eliciting music differently than do controls, even in a relatively non-social setting, possibly because of emotion-processing differences in the frontal lobes.

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