February 1990

Increased Distractibility in Schizophrenic PatientsElectrophysiologic and Behavioral Evidence

Author Affiliations

From the Department of Psychiatry, Yale University School of Medicine, Genetic Epidemiology Research Unit, New Haven, Conn (Drs Grillon and Ameli); Departments of Neurosciences (Dr Courchesne) and Psychiatry (Drs Geyer and Braff), School of Medicine, University of California San Diego, La Jolla; and Neuropsychology Research Laboratory, Children's Hospital Research Center, San Diego, Calif (Dr Courchesne).

Arch Gen Psychiatry. 1990;47(2):171-179. doi:10.1001/archpsyc.1990.01810140071010

• The inability of schizophrenics to filter irrelevant information has often been implicated in the psychopathology of schizophrenia. Despite numerous attempts at characterizing the behavior of schizophrenics in the presence of distractors, evidence of increased distractibility has been equivocal due to the difficulty of assessing simultaneously the behavioral and neurophysiological effects of distracting stimuli. We report the results of an experiment in which event-related potential and performance measures were used to assess distractibility during reaction time tasks under different distracting conditions. The results supported the view of an increased distractibility in schizophrenic patients. Event-related potential data suggested that in schizophrenic patients, a reduced amount of processing resources is allocated to process external stimuli and attention is abnormally apportioned to task-irrelevant vs task-relevant stimuli.