Habituation during encoding: A new approach to the evaluation of memory deficits in schizophrenia

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

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Background: Memory is significantly impaired in schizophrenia. However, memory measures are often complex and confounded by additional impairments such as motivation and task comprehension, which can affect behavioral performance and obscure neural function during memory tasks. Neural signatures of memory encoding that are robust to potential confounds may shed additional light on neural deficits contributing to memory impairment in schizophrenia. Methods: Here, we investigate a potential neural signature of memory—habituation—and its relationship with healthy and impaired memory function. To limit potential confounds, we used a passive depth of encoding memory task designed to elicit neural responses associated with memory encoding while limiting other cognitive demands. To determine whether habituation during encoding was predictive of intact memory processing, we first compared neural habituation over repeated encoding exposures with subsequent explicit memory in healthy individuals. We then tested whether a similar relationship existed in patients with schizophrenia. Results: Explicit memory performance was impaired in patients with schizophrenia relative to healthy control subjects. In healthy participants, more habituation over repeated exposures during encoding was associated with greater repetition-related increases in accuracy during testing. However, in patients with schizophrenia, better performance was associated with less habituation, or a more sustained neural response during encoding. Conclusions: These results suggest that sustained neural activity is required for normal repetition-related improvements in memory performance in schizophrenia, in line with a neural inefficiency model. Habituation may serve as a valuable index of neural processes that underlie behavioral memory performance.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)179-185
Number of pages7
JournalSchizophrenia Research
StatePublished - Sep 2020
Externally publishedYes


  • Encoding
  • Hippocampus
  • Neuropsychiatric disorders
  • Repetition suppression
  • Translational approach

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Biological Psychiatry


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