BACKGROUND: Impaired ability to use contextual information to optimally prepare for tasks contributes to performance deficits in schizophrenia. We used magnetoencephalography and an antisaccade task to investigate the neural basis of this deficit. METHODS: In schizophrenia patients and healthy control participants, we examined the difference in preparatory activation to cues indicating an impending antisaccade or prosaccade. We analyzed activation for correct trials only and focused on the network for volitional ocular motor control-frontal eye field (FEF), dorsal anterior cingulate cortex (dACC), and the ventrolateral and dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (VLPFC, DLPFC). RESULTS: Compared with control subjects, patients made more antisaccade errors and showed reduced differential preparatory activation in the dACC and increased differential preparatory activation in the VLPFC. In patients only, antisaccade error rates correlated with preparatory activation in the FEF, DLPFC, and VLPFC. CONCLUSIONS: In schizophrenia, reduced differential preparatory activation of the dACC may reflect reduced signaling of the need for control. Greater preparatory activation in the VLPFC and the correlations of error rate with FEF, DLPFC, and VLPFC activation may reflect that patients who are more error prone require stronger activation in these regions for correct performance. These findings provide the first evidence of abnormal task preparation, distinct from response generation, during volitional saccades in schizophrenia. We conclude that schizophrenia patients are impaired in using task cues to modulate cognitive control and that this contributes to deficits inhibiting prepotent but contextually inappropriate responses and to behavior that is stimulus bound and error prone rather than flexibly guided by context.