Hemispheric cooperation - A crucial factor in schizophrenia? Neurophysiological evidence
The ability of the left and right hemispheres to interact and cooperate in the processing of information is important for normal brain functioning. Some investigators have suggested that this cooperation in functioning occurs through a process called "metacontrol." Because studies have suggested that patients with schizophrenia may have problems with interhemispheric interaction, we considered that it could be informative to study such patients from the viewpoint of interhemispheric cooperation, and more specifically that of metacontrol. To do this we utilized an assessment procedure called the consonant-vowel-consonant (CVC) task, in which nonsense three-letter combinations (trigrams) are presented vertically to the left, right and both visual fields. The pattern of errors can be used to determine the type of processing the hemispheres use under the different conditions of presentation. Previous studies have shown that when trigram information is presented to both hemispheres, the left hemisphere appears to switch into a mode that more resembles right hemisphere processing, and we wished to determine if evidence for this switch in the mode of processing also occurred in a sample of patients with schizophrenia. To determine the specificity of any findings to schizophrenia, we also studied a group of patients with bipolar disorder. For the control and bipolar groups, our results showed the typical finding of superior processing in the right visual field (left hemisphere) over the left visual field, with presentation to both visual fields demonstrating a qualitative error pattern resembling that of the left visual field (right hemisphere). Patients with schizophrenia, however, did not demonstrate this switching into a right hemisphere mode upon bilateral presentation of the trigrams and instead seemed to show no switching, or actually switching into more of a left hemisphere mode. Our results suggest that patients with schizophrenia (but not bipolar disorder) may have abnormalities in the cooperative processing of information when it is presented to both hemispheres, and that this disturbance may reflect problems with metacontrol of hemispheric processing.