Spatial working memory span, delayed response and executive function in schizophrenia

Psychiatry Res. 2002 Jul 31;110(3):259-71. doi: 10.1016/s0165-1781(02)00105-1.


This study investigated the spatial working memory span (SWMS) as well as the immediate memory span of schizophrenic patients, and examined the contribution of each span to the patients' executive function deficit in the visuospatial domain. SWMS measured the visuospatial working memory capacity that simultaneously processes and stores visuospatial information. Immediate memory span was measured with the spatial span (SS), a variant of Corsi's block-tapping test. A total of 16 patients diagnosed with schizophrenia and 16 normal control subjects participated in the study. SWMS, as well as the forward and backward SS, was significantly reduced in schizophrenia. The SWMS deficit observed in this study and previous findings of deficit in verbal working memory spans suggest that impairment in working memory capacity in schizophrenia is general, and not limited to the verbal domain. Executive function as assessed with the self-ordered pointing task (SOPT) was also impaired in the patients, which is consistent with clinical observations of self-monitoring impairment in schizophrenia. SWMS was able to account for the performance on the SOPT, but its contribution in the patients' impairment did not reach statistical significance. Backward span deficit explained this executive function impairment. SWMS was effective in explaining schizophrenic patients' impaired performance on the spatial delayed response, a prefrontal function task. Implications of the relations observed between the spans and the prefrontal function tasks are discussed.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Brain / physiopathology*
  • Chronic Disease
  • Cognition Disorders / diagnosis
  • Cognition Disorders / epidemiology
  • Cognition Disorders / etiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Memory Disorders / diagnosis
  • Memory Disorders / epidemiology
  • Memory Disorders / etiology*
  • Neuropsychological Tests
  • Perceptual Disorders / diagnosis
  • Perceptual Disorders / epidemiology
  • Perceptual Disorders / etiology
  • Reaction Time
  • Schizophrenia / complications*
  • Space Perception*
  • Visual Perception