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29-03-2010 | Mental health | Article

Subjective working memory test validated in schizophrenia


Free abstract

MedWire News: Patients with schizophrenia who report working memory deficits on a self-assessed scale show reductions in left and right frontal lobe volumes relative to their peers with fewer deficits, a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) study has shown.

The findings provide initial support for the clinical utility of subjective working memory assessment in patients with schizophrenia, say Robert Roth (Dartmouth Medical School, Lebanon, New Hampshire, USA) and colleagues.

“Such measures could potentially be of significant benefit in identifying patients in need of objective neuropsychological evaluation, gauging the effects of treatment, and examining the impact of patient's perceived cognitive functioning in relation to other variables such as quality of life,” they comment in the journal Schizophrenia Research.

Patients with schizophrenia commonly show deficits in working memory on objective neuropsychological measures, and brain imaging studies have documented neural abnormalities during performance of working memory tasks.

However, it remains unclear to what extent such patients are able to accurately gauge the integrity of their working memory in their daily lives.

In the present study, Roth and colleagues investigated whether subjective ratings of working memory in daily life were associated with brain morphology measured via structural MRI in patients with schizophrenia.

They included 29 patients with schizophrenia and 26 mentally healthy controls.

Participants underwent a MRI scan, and completed the Self Report form of the Behavioral Rating Inventory of Executive Function — Adult version (BRIEF-A), and Digit Span Backwards as an objective measure of working memory.

The patient group reported worse working memory in daily life, and performed worse on Digit Span Backwards, than the comparison group.

Within the patient group, poorer working memory in daily life was associated with smaller left and right frontal lobe volumes, while shorter backwards digit span was associated with smaller left frontal and left and right temporal lobe volumes.

Roth et al conclude: “The present study provides some support for the validity of subjective rating of working memory in patients with schizophrenia.

“However, that it is unlikely for subjective rating of cognitive functioning to be sufficiently sensitive and specific to implicate abnormality in highly circumscribed brain regions.”

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

By Andrew Czyzewski

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