Visual masking as a probe for abnormal gamma range activity in schizophrenia

Michael Foster Green, Jim Mintz, Dustin Salveson, Keith H. Nuechterlein, Bruno Breitmeyer, Gregory A. Light, David L. Braff

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

68 Scopus citations


Background: Visual masking procedures assess very early stages of visual perception. Patients with schizophrenia consistently show deficits on visual masking tasks, and these deficits likely reflect vulnerability to schizophrenia. We conducted two experiments to determine whether visual masking procedures can reveal underlying abnormalities in gamma range oscillations in schizophrenia. Methods: In the first experiment, we conducted nonlinear modeling of visual masking performance data from 89 male schizophrenic patients and 20 male comparison subjects. In the second experiment, electrophysiological recordings of event-related gamma activity were taken during a visual masking task in a subset of eight patients and seven control subjects. Results: In the first experiment, nonlinear modeling of the performance data revealed evidence of oscillations in the gamma range (30 and 35 Hz) for the comparison group but not patients. In the second experiment, the comparison group, but not the patients, showed a burst of gamma range activity 200-400 msec following target presentation. The difference between patients and comparison subjects in this time period was significant (p < .05). Conclusions: Visual masking procedures can serve as a probe for underlying gamma range activity, which appears to be aberrant in schizophrenia. Perceptual problems in schizophrenia may, at least in part, be due to a failure to establish and/or maintain gamma range oscillations.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1113-1119
Number of pages7
JournalBiological Psychiatry
Issue number12
StatePublished - 15 Jun 2003
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Funding for this project came from National Institute of Mental Health Grant MH-43292 (to MFG), and from the Department of Veterans Affairs, VISN 22 Mental Illness Research, Education, and Clinical Center (MIRECC). Additional support for method development came from the UCLA Center for Research on Treatment and Rehabilitation of Psychosis (MH-30911, R.P. Liberman, principal investigator).


  • Backward masking
  • Gamma frequency
  • Neurocognition
  • Schizophrenia
  • Visual masking
  • Visual processing


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