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03-03-2010 | Mental health | Article

Schizophrenia patients show consistent working memory impairments


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MedWire News: Schizophrenia patients have comprehensive deficits in working memory that are consistent in this patient group and stable over time, researchers have found.

Reporting their findings at the 18th European Congress of Psychiatry in Munich, Germany, the team stressed the relevance of their findings to the social functioning of these patients.

Their study revealed problems with facial recognition, learning, and being able to recall pictures or words.

D Cozman and colleagues from the University of Medicine and Pharmacy ‘luliu Hatieganu,’ in Cluj-Napoca, Romania, assessed the working memory of 40 schizophrenia inpatients and 30 mentally healthy individuals aged an average of 29 years.

Schizophrenia patients were excluded from the study if they were mentally retarded, had a history of drug or alcohol use, had current neurologic or systemic conditions, or had recently received electroconvulsive therapy.

The participants completed the Word List Memory Test (WLM), the Face Memory Test, and the Spatial Working Memory test.

The study findings showed that schizophrenia patients had specific working memory impairments compared with controls. These included poorer learning, with an average score of 42.65 versus 51.80, respectively; poorer trial-to-trial transfer capabilities (54.82 vs 87.21); impaired face recognition abilities (0.66 vs 0.83); and impaired visuo-spatial memory (89.421 vs 49.37).

The researchers also noted that, more specifically, schizophrenia patients listed more non-list words on the WLM than controls. This occurrence could explain the mechanism of paranoid delusions, they suggested.

Cozman concluded: “The study supports the current data which state that working memory deficits in schizophrenia are consistent, stable, and comprehensive, which is particularly relevant for the social functioning of schizophrenia patients.”

MedWire ( is an independent clinical news service provided by Current Medicine Group, a trading division of Springer Healthcare Limited. © Springer Healthcare Ltd; 2010

By Lucy Piper

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