Background: Mismatch negativity (MMN) is a measure of cortical activity that occurs in response to a change in auditory stimuli. We investigated whether MMN is a potential marker of genetic vulnerability to schizophrenia by comparing MMN in a group of patients with schizophrenia, their unaffected relatives, and controls. Method: There are 25 schizophrenic patients, 37 of their unaffected first-degree relatives, and 20 unrelated controls that performed the MMN task. Linear regression with robust standard errors, and accounting for correlations within families, was employed to test for differences in MMN amplitude between the groups. Results: Patients had significantly smaller MMN amplitudes compared to both their unaffected relatives and controls at FZ (P<0.01) and at F3 (P=0.01), whereas relatives and controls did not differ at FZ or at F3. No differences were found between any of the groups at F4. Furthermore, we found no strong evidence that the MMN amplitude is a familial trait. Conclusions: Our results confirm that the MMN amplitude is reduced in schizophrenia. However, the MMN does not show a significant familial influence and is normal among the unaffected relatives. We conclude that while the MMN is abnormal in patients with schizophrenia, it is a weak or unreliable marker of vulnerability when applied to subclinical populations, and therefore is unlikely to be an endophenotype for the disorder.
- Biological marker and endophenotype
- Family study
- Genetic vulnerability
- Mismatch negativity