More than just tapping: index finger-tapping measures procedural learning in schizophrenia

Schizophr Res. 2012 May;137(1-3):234-40. doi: 10.1016/j.schres.2012.01.018. Epub 2012 Feb 16.

Abstract

Background: Finger-tapping has been widely studied using behavioral and neuroimaging paradigms. Evidence supports the use of finger-tapping as an endophenotype in schizophrenia, but its relationship with motor procedural learning remains unexplored. To our knowledge, this study presents the first use of index finger-tapping to study procedural learning in individuals with schizophrenia or schizoaffective disorder (SCZ/SZA) as compared to healthy controls.

Methods: A computerized index finger-tapping test was administered to 1169 SCZ/SZA patients (62% male, 88% right-handed), and 689 healthy controls (40% male, 93% right-handed). Number of taps per trial and learning slopes across trials for the dominant and non-dominant hands were examined for motor speed and procedural learning, respectively.

Results: Both healthy controls and SCZ/SZA patients demonstrated procedural learning for their dominant hand but not for their non-dominant hand. In addition, patients showed a greater capacity for procedural learning even though they demonstrated more variability in procedural learning compared to healthy controls. Left-handers of both groups performed better than right-handers and had less variability in mean number of taps between non-dominant and dominant hands. Males also had less variability in mean tap count between dominant and non-dominant hands than females. As expected, patients had a lower mean number of taps than healthy controls, males outperformed females and dominant-hand trials had more mean taps than non-dominant hand trials in both groups.

Conclusions: The index finger-tapping test can measure both motor speed and procedural learning, and motor procedural learning may be intact in SCZ/SZA patients.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Diagnosis, Computer-Assisted
  • Female
  • Fingers / physiology*
  • Functional Laterality
  • Humans
  • Learning Disabilities / diagnosis*
  • Learning Disabilities / etiology*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Psychiatric Status Rating Scales
  • Psychomotor Performance / physiology*
  • Schizophrenia / complications*
  • Serial Learning / physiology*
  • Sex Factors

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