Stable habituation deficits in the early stage of psychosis: a 2-year follow-up study

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

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Neural habituation, the decrease in brain response to repeated stimuli, is a fundamental, highly conserved mechanism that acts as an essential filter for our complex sensory environment. Convergent evidence indicates neural habituation is disrupted in both early and chronic stages of schizophrenia, with deficits co-occurring in brain regions that show inhibitory dysfunction. As inhibitory deficits have been proposed to contribute to the onset and progression of illness, habituation may be an important treatment target. However, a crucial first step is clarifying whether habituation deficits progress with illness. In the present study, we measured neural habituation in 138 participants (70 early psychosis patients (<2 years of illness), 68 healthy controls), with 108 participants assessed longitudinally at both baseline and 2-year follow-up. At follow-up, all early psychosis patients met criteria for a schizophrenia spectrum disorder (i.e., schizophreniform disorder, schizophrenia, schizoaffective disorder). Habituation slopes (i.e., rate of fMRI signal change) to repeated images were computed for the anterior hippocampus, occipital cortex, and the fusiform face area. Habituation slopes were entered into a linear mixed model to test for effects of group and time by region. We found that early psychosis patients showed habituation deficits relative to healthy control participants across brain regions, and that these deficits were maintained, but did not worsen, over two years. These results suggest a stable period of habituation deficits in the early stage of schizophrenia.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number20
JournalTranslational Psychiatry
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jun 2021
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience
  • Biological Psychiatry


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