Procedural learning in schizophrenia: further consideration on the deleterious effect of neuroleptics

Brain Cogn. Jun-Aug 2000;43(1-3):31-9.


Deficits in procedural learning remain a controversial issue in schizophrenia. This may be related to the nature of the neuroleptic treatment of schizophrenic patients as conventional neuroleptics may be more deleterious than new atypical neuroleptics. However, there is no comparative study on the effect of specific neuroleptics on procedural learning. In this study, three groups of patients treated with different neuroleptics were compared to normal controls on two procedural learning tasks. In a visuo-motor task, patients and controls showed similar learning rates, although schizophrenic patients showed generally lower performances than normal controls. However, patients treated with a conventional neuroleptic, but not those treated with the atypical neuroleptics, showed many fluctuations during the initial learning phase. In a problem-solving task, all groups were comparable in performance and learning fluctuations, but learning rates were lower in patients treated with the neuroleptic showing the higher incidence of extrapyramidal symptoms. This suggests that procedural learning abilities may be significantly affected by neuroleptics in schizophrenia, although the effect may differ between tasks and the specific neuroleptics. Fluctuations in the initial learning phase of the visuo-motor task probably results from a frontal dysfunction while reduced learning rates, such as those observed in the problem solving task, may be attributed to a striatal dysfunction. This is concordant with the differential pharmacological actions of the conventional and atypical neuroleptics in these two cerebral areas.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Antipsychotic Agents / administration & dosage
  • Antipsychotic Agents / adverse effects*
  • Antipsychotic Agents / pharmacology
  • Corpus Striatum / metabolism
  • Corpus Striatum / physiopathology
  • Drug Administration Schedule
  • Humans
  • Learning Disabilities / chemically induced*
  • Problem Solving
  • Schizophrenia / drug therapy*
  • Schizophrenia / physiopathology


  • Antipsychotic Agents