Preserved electrophysiological markers of confidence in schizophrenia spectrum disorder


A large number of behavioral studies suggest that confidence judgments are impaired in schizophrenia, motivating the search for neural correlates of an underlying metacognitive impairment. Electrophysiological studies suggest that a specific evoked response potential reflecting performance monitoring, namely the error-related negativity (ERN), is blunted in schizophrenia compared to healthy controls. However, attention has recently been drawn to a potential confound in the study of metacognition, namely that lower task-performance in schizophrenia compared to healthy controls involves a decreased index of metacognitive performance (where metacognitive performance is construed as the ability to calibrate one’s confidence relative to response correctness), independently of metacognitive abilities among patients. Here, we assessed how this confound might also apply to ERN-blunting in schizophrenia. We used an adaptive staircase procedure to titrate task-performance on a motion discrimination task in which participants (N = 14 patients and 19 controls) had to report their confidence after each trial while we recorded high density EEG. Interestingly, not only metaperceptual abilities were preserved among patients at the behavioral level, but contrary to our hypothesis, we also found no electrophysiological evidence for altered EEG markers of performance monitoring. These results bring additional evidence suggesting an unaltered ability to monitor perceptual performance on a trial by trial basis in schizophrenia.