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September 1988

Asymmetries in Hemispheric Control of Attention in Schizophrenia

Author Affiliations

From the McDonnell Center for Higher Brain Studies (Drs Posner and Reiman) and Departments of Neurology (Drs Posner and Dhawan and Ms Pardo), Neurological Surgery (Drs Posner and Dhawan), Psychiatry (Drs Early and Reiman), and Psychology (Dr Posner and Ms Pardo), Washington University Medical Center, St Louis. Dr Posner is now with the University of Oregon, Eugene.

Arch Gen Psychiatry. 1988;45(9):814-821. doi:10.1001/archpsyc.1988.01800330038004

• Investigators have long suggested that schizophrenia might be related to an impairment in the regulation of attention. In this report, the performance of schizophrenic patients was compared with nonschizophrenic control subjects in their ability to direct visual attention. In the first experiment, patients were distinguished from controls by a slower response to a target in the right visual field than to a target in the left visual field when attention was not first directed to the target location. In the second experiment, patients were distinguished from controls by a stronger bias in favor of symbolic information over language information about spatial direction. In both experiments, the patients demonstrated deficits in attention similar to patients from previous studies who had unilateral lesions of the left hemisphere. The identification of performance abnormalities using tasks that are simple, have dissectable cognitive components, have been related to discrete neural systems, and control for nonspecific variables provide the basis for constructing reasonable hypotheses about the cognitive psychology and functional neuroanatomy of schizophrenia.