Disrupted Habituation in the Early Stage of Psychosis

Suzanne N. Avery, Maureen McHugo, Kristan Armstrong, Jennifer U. Blackford, Neil D. Woodward, Stephan Heckers

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


Background: Learning and memory are impaired in schizophrenia. Some theories have proposed that one form of memory, habituation, is particularly impaired. Preliminary evidence suggests that memory impairment is associated with failed hippocampal habituation in patients with chronic schizophrenia. We studied how abnormal habituation of the hippocampus is related to relational memory deficits in the early stage of psychosis. Methods: We measured hippocampal activity in 62 patients with early psychosis and 70 healthy individuals using functional magnetic resonance imaging. Habituation was defined as the slope of functional magnetic resonance imaging signal change to repeated presentations of faces and objects. Relational memory ability was measured as the slope of preferential viewing during a face-scene pair eye movement task outside the scanner. Results: Patients with early psychosis showed impaired relational memory (p < .001) and less hippocampal habituation to objects (p = .01) than healthy control subjects. In the healthy control group, better relational memory was associated with faster anterior hippocampal habituation (faces, r = −.28, p = .03). In contrast, patients with early psychosis showed no brain-behavior relationship (r = .12, p = .40). Conclusions: We found evidence for disrupted hippocampal habituation in the early stage of psychosis along with an altered association between hippocampal habituation and relational memory ability. These results suggest that neural habituation may provide a novel target for early cognitive interventions in psychosis.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1004-1012
Number of pages9
JournalBiological Psychiatry: Cognitive Neuroscience and Neuroimaging
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 2019
Externally publishedYes


  • First episode
  • Hippocampus
  • Novelty
  • Relational memory
  • Schizophrenia
  • Visual cortex

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging
  • Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Clinical Neurology
  • Biological Psychiatry


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