Timing dysfunctions in schizophrenia as measured by a repetitive finger tapping task

Christine A. Carroll, Brian F. O'Donnell, Anantha Shekhar, William P. Hetrick

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

62 Scopus citations


Schizophrenia may be associated with a fundamental disturbance in the temporal coordination of information processing in the brain, leading to classic symptoms of schizophrenia such as thought disorder and disorganized and contextually inappropriate behavior. Although a variety of behavioral studies have provided strong evidence for perceptual timing deficits in schizophrenia, no study to date has directly examined overt temporal performance in schizophrenia using a task that differentially engages perceptual and motor-based timing processes. The present study aimed to isolate perceptual and motor-based temporal performance in individuals diagnosed with schizophrenia using a repetitive finger-tapping task that has previously been shown to differentially engage brain regions associated with perceptual and motor-related timing behavior. Thirty-two individuals with schizophrenia and 31 non-psychiatric control participants completed the repetitive finger-tapping task, which required participants to first tap in time with computer-generated tones separated by a fixed intertone interval (tone-paced tapping), after which the tones were discontinued and participants were required to continue tapping at the established pace (self-paced tapping). Participants with schizophrenia displayed significantly faster tapping rates for both tone- and self-paced portions of the task compared to the non-psychiatric group. Individuals diagnosed with schizophrenia also displayed greater tapping variability during both tone- and self-paced portions of the task. The application of a mathematical timing model further indicated that group differences were primarily attributable to increased timing - as opposed to task implementation - difficulties in the schizophrenia group, which is noteworthy given the broad range of impairments typically associated with the disorder. These findings support the contention that schizophrenia is associated with a broad range of timing difficulties, including those associated with time perception as well as time production.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)345-353
Number of pages9
JournalBrain and Cognition
Issue number3
StatePublished - Dec 2009


  • Finger tapping
  • Schizophrenia
  • Temporal processing
  • Timing
  • Variability

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology

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