An abnormal pattern of hemispheric asymmetry, possibly as a result of disturbed interhemispheric communication, is widely, albeit by no means unanimously, held as a major cause of schizophrenia. To behaviourally test interhemispheric communication in schizophrenia we used a task that has been shown to be a reliable indicator of callosal functioning, namely, the redundant signals effect (RSE). It consists of the speeding of simple reaction time when responding to double as opposed to single visual stimuli. When the stimuli in a pair are presented to different hemispheres patients who underwent total commissurotomy or suffer from callosal agenesis show a paradoxically enhanced RSE with respect to healthy controls. Therefore, if schizophrenia patients have a callosal abnormality they ought to show a similar effect. In three experiments we tested a total of 55 patients with a diagnosis of schizophrenia and 51 healthy controls. In Experiment 1 we presented unilateral single stimuli and bilateral simultaneous double stimuli. The RSE was reliably larger in schizophrenics than in controls. In Experiment 2 the temporal interval between the two stimuli in a pair was varied. We found that while in controls the RSE disappeared with interstimulus intervals longer than 17ms, in schizophrenia patients there was a RSE only for simultaneous double stimuli. Finally, in Experiment 3 we found that there was no enhanced redundancy gain in schizophrenics when the double stimuli were presented to one and the same hemisphere, and therefore, with no need for callosal transmission. All in all, the present results provide evidence of a callosal dysfunction in schizophrenia that impairs interhemispheric integration.
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