Episodic memory bias and the symptoms of schizophrenia

Can J Psychiatry. 2007 Nov;52(11):702-9. doi: 10.1177/070674370705201104.


Much of the research on episodic memory in schizophrenia spectrum disorders has focused on memory deficits and how they relate to clinical measures such as outcome. Memory bias refers to the modulatory influence that state or trait psychopathology may exert on memory performance for specific categories of stimuli, often emotional in nature. For example, subjects suffering from depression frequently have better memory for negative stimuli than for neutral or positive ones. This dimension of memory function has received only scant attention in schizophrenia research but could provide fresh new insights into the relation between symptoms and neurocognition. This paper reviews the studies that have explored memory biases in individuals with schizophrenia. With respect to positive symptoms, we examine studies that have explored the link between persecutory delusions and memory bias for threatening information and between psychosis and a memory bias toward external source memory. Although relatively few studies have examined negative symptoms, we also review preliminary evidence indicating that flat affect and anhedonia may lead to some specific emotional memory biases. Finally, we present recent findings from our group delineating the relation between emotional valence for faces and memory bias toward novelty and familiarity, both in schizophrenia patients and in healthy control subjects. A better understanding of the biasing effects of psychopathology on memory in schizophrenia (but also on other cognitive functions, such as attention, attribution, and so forth) may provide a stronger association between positive and negative symptoms and memory function. Memory measures sensitive to such biases may turn out to be stronger predictors of clinical and functional outcome.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Affect
  • Expressed Emotion
  • Facial Expression
  • Humans
  • Memory Disorders / diagnosis
  • Memory Disorders / epidemiology*
  • Neuropsychological Tests
  • Psychotic Disorders / diagnosis
  • Psychotic Disorders / epidemiology
  • Psychotic Disorders / psychology
  • Recognition, Psychology
  • Schizophrenia / epidemiology*
  • Severity of Illness Index