We evaluated whether abnormal frequency composition of the resting state electroencephalogram (EEG) in schizophrenia was associated with genetic liability for the disorder by studying first-degree biological relatives of schizophrenia patients. The study included a data-driven method for defining EEG frequency components and determined the specificity of resting state EEG frequency abnormalities by assessing schizophrenia patients, bipolar disorder patients, and relatives of both patient groups. Schizophrenia patients and their relatives, but not bipolar patients or their relatives, exhibited increased high-frequency activity (beta) providing evidence for disturbances in resting state brain activity being specific to genetic liability for schizophrenia. Schizophrenia patients exhibited augmented low-frequency EEG activity (delta, theta), while bipolar disorder patients and the 2 groups of relatives generally failed to manifest similar low-frequency EEG abnormalities. The Val 158Met polymorphism for the catechol-O-methyl transferase (COMT) gene was most strongly associated with delta and theta activity in schizophrenia patients. Met homozygote schizophrenia patients exhibited augmented activity for the 2 low-frequency bands compared with control subjects. Excessive high-frequency EEG activity over frontal brain regions may serve as an endophenotype that reflects cortical expression of genetic vulnerability for schizophrenia. Low-frequency resting state EEG anomalies in schizophrenia may relate to disorder-specific pathophysiology in schizophrenia and the influence of the COMT gene on tonic dopamanergic function.
- Catechol-O-methyl transferase