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Sleep deprivation as an experimental model system for psychosis: Effects on smooth pursuit, prosaccades, and antisaccades.


Current antipsychotic medications fail to satisfactorily reduce negative and cognitive symptoms and produce many unwanted side effects, necessitating the development of new compounds. Cross-species, experimental behavioural model systems can be valuable to inform the development of such drugs. The aim of the current study was to further test the hypothesis that controlled sleep deprivation is a safe and effective model system for psychosis when combined with oculomotor biomarkers of schizophrenia. Using a randomized counterbalanced within-subjects design, we investigated the effects of 1 night of total sleep deprivation in 32 healthy participants on smooth pursuit eye movements (SPEM), prosaccades (PS), antisaccades (AS), and self-ratings of psychosis-like states. Compared with a normal sleep control night, sleep deprivation was associated with reduced SPEM velocity gain, higher saccadic frequency at 0.2 Hz, elevated PS spatial error, and an increase in AS direction errors. Sleep deprivation also increased intra-individual variability of SPEM, PS, and AS measures. In addition, sleep deprivation induced psychosis-like experiences mimicking hallucinations, cognitive disorganization, and negative symptoms, which in turn had moderate associations with AS direction errors. Taken together, sleep deprivation resulted in psychosis-like impairments in SPEM and AS performance. However, diverging somewhat from the schizophrenia literature, sleep deprivation additionally disrupted PS control. Sleep deprivation thus represents a promising but possibly unspecific experimental model that may be helpful to further improve our understanding of the underlying mechanisms in the pathophysiology of psychosis and aid the development of antipsychotic and pro-cognitive drugs.