December 1992

Schizophrenics Show Spatial Working Memory Deficits

Author Affiliations

From Harvard University (Drs Park and Holzman) and Harvard Medical School and Mailman Research Center, McLean Hospital (Dr Holzman), Cambridge, Mass.

Arch Gen Psychiatry. 1992;49(12):975-982. doi:10.1001/archpsyc.1992.01820120063009

• The present study demonstrates that schizophrenics are impaired on spatial delayed-response tasks, analogous to those that have been used to assess the working memory function of the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex in rhesus monkeys. Schizophrenic patients and two control groups, normal subjects and bipolar psychiatric patients, were tested on the oculomotor version of the memory task, a haptic version of the same task, and two control tasks: a sensory task that did not require working memory and a digit span test. The schizophrenic patients showed marked deficits relative to the two control groups in both the oculomotor and haptic delayed-response tasks. They were not, however, impaired on the digit span test, which taps verbal working memory as well as voluntary attention, and on the sensory control task, in which their responses were guided by external cues rather than by spatial working memory. These findings provide direct evidence that schizophrenics suffer a loss in representational processing and that this deficit is modality independent. These data on spatial working memory add to the growing evidence for involvement of the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex in schizophrenic disease.