Visuospatial working memory in patients with schizophrenia

Biological Psychiatry
K FlemingD R Weinberger

Abstract

Recent investigations have documented abnormalities in working memory related processes in schizophrenics on tasks assessing the central executive component of this cognitive model. This preliminary study investigated the function of another component of the working memory system, the visuospatial scratch pad in schizophrenia. The "scratch pad's" passive visual store--responsible for the temporary retention of visual material--was assessed via a computerized spatial delayed response task, whereas its active spatial rehearsal subsystem--specialized for retaining the temporal properties--was explored through visual block span. To assess elemental visual spatial abilities we used the Judgment of Line Orientation test. Thirty-two schizophrenics and 27 controls were tested. Although we discovered the basic perceptual abilities of patients to be intact, we determined that whenever memory was necessitated on spatial tasks, patients demonstrated marked deficits. This pattern of cognitive dysfunction is consistent with impairments in a neural network involving prefrontal and/or posterior brain regions in schizophrenia.

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