(searched for: doi:10.1016/j.neuroimage.2021.117874)
Published: 27 February 2021
Background Deficits in the way the brain processes rewards may contribute to negative symptoms in schizophrenia. Synchronization of alpha band neural oscillations is a dominant EEG signal when people are awake, but at rest. In contrast, alpha desynchronization to salient events is thought to direct allocation of information processing resources away from the internal state, to process salient stimuli in the external environment. Here, we hypothesize that alpha event-related desynchronization (ERD) during reward processing is altered in schizophrenia, leading to less difference in alpha ERD magnitude between winning and losing outcomes. Methods EEG was recorded while participants (patients with schizophrenia (SZ)=54; healthy controls (HC) = 54) completed a casino-style slot machine gambling task. Total power, a measure of neural oscillation magnitude was measured in the alpha frequency range (8-14 Hz), time-locked to reward delivery, extracted via principal components analysis, and then compared between groups and equiprobable win and near miss loss reward outcomes. Associations between alpha power and negative symptoms and trait rumination were examined. Results A significant Group X Reward Outcome interaction (p=.018) was explained by differences within the HC group, driven by significant posterior-occipital alpha desynchronization to wins, relative to near miss losses (p<.001). In contrast, SZ did not modulate alpha power to wins vs. near miss losses (p>.1), nor did alpha power relate to negative symptoms (p>.1). However, across all participants, less alpha ERD to reward outcomes was related to more trait rumination, for both wins (p=.005) and near-miss losses (p=.002), with no group differences observed in the slopes of these relationships. Conclusion These findings suggest that event-related modulation of alpha power is altered in schizophrenia during reward outcome processing, even when reward attainment places minimal demands on higher-order cognitive processes during slot machine play. In addition, high trait rumination is associated with less event-related desynchronization to reward feedback, suggesting that rumination covaries with less external attentional allocation to reward processing, regardless of reward outcome valence and group membership.