Prepulse inhibition (PPI) of startle is an operational measure of sensorimotor gating that is often impaired in patients with schizophrenia. Despite the large number of studies, there is considerable variation in PPI outcomes reported. We conducted a systematic review and meta-analysis investigating PPI impairment in patients with schizophrenia compared with healthy control subjects, and examined possible explanations for the variation in results between studies. Major databases were screened for observational studies comparing healthy subjects and patients with schizophrenia for the prepulse and pulse intervals of 60 and 120 ms as primary outcomes, ie, PPI-60 and PPI-120. Standardized mean difference (SMD) and 95% confidence intervals (CI) were extracted and pooled using random effects models. We then estimated the mean effect size of these measures with random effects meta-analyses and evaluated potential PPI heterogeneity moderators, using sensitivity analysis and meta-regressions. Sixty-seven primary studies were identified, with 3685 healthy and 4290 patients with schizophrenia. The schizophrenia group showed reduction in sensorimotor gating for both PPI-60 (SMD = −0.50, 95% CI = [−0.61, −0.39]) and PPI-120 (SMD = −0.44, 95% CI = [−0.54, −0.33]). The sensitivity and meta-regression analysis showed that sample size, gender proportion, imbalance for gender, source of control group, and study continent were sources of heterogeneity (P < .05) for both PPI-60 and PPI-120 outcomes. Our findings confirm a global sensorimotor gating deficit in schizophrenia patients, with overall moderate effect size for PPI-60 and PPI-120. Methodological consistency should decrease the high level of heterogeneity of PPI results between studies.

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