In recent years, the presence of attention deficits has been recognized as a key feature of schizophrenia. Past studies reveal that selective attention, or the ability to select relevant information while ignoring simultaneously irrelevant information, is disturbed in schizophrenic patients. According to Treisman feature-integration theory of selective attention, visual search for conjunctive targets (e.g., shape and color) requires controlled processes, that necessitate attention and operate in a serial manner. Reaction times (RTs) are therefore function of the number of stimuli in the display. When subjects are asked to detect the presence or absence of target in an array of a variable number of stimuli, different performance patterns are expected for positive (present target) and negative trials (absent target). For positive trials, a self-terminating search is triggered, that is, the search is ended when the target is encountered. For negative trials, an exhaustive search strategy is displayed, where each stimulus is examined before the search can end; the RT slope pattern is thus double that of the positive trials. To assess the integrity of these processes, thirteen drug naive schizophrenic patients were compared to twenty normal control subjects. Neuroleptic naive patients were chosen as subjects to avoid the potential influence of medication and chronicity related factors on performance. The subjects had to specify as fast as possible the presence or absence of the target in an array of a variable number of stimuli presented in a circular display, and comprising or not the target. Results showed that the patients can use self-terminating search strategies as well as normal control subjects. However, their ability to trigger exhaustive search strategies is impaired. Not only were patients slower than controls, but their pattern of RT results was different. These results argue in favor of an early impairment in selective attention capacities in schizophrenia which appears before the introduction of neuroleptics. The attention performance was also shown to present some association to clinical symptoms.
|Translated title of the contribution||Selective attention in never-medicated patients with schizophrenia|
|Number of pages||8|
|Publication status||Published - 1999|
- Drug naive patients
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
- Psychiatry and Mental health