Episodic memory impairment is a robust correlate of familial risk for schizophrenia (SZ) and bipolar disorder (BD); still much is unknown about the processes that underlie this deficit and how they may be implicated in BD and SZ. We examined the possibility that (a) episodic memory impairment may arise from abnormalities in the cognitive control of interference between task-relevant and task-irrelevant memories during retrieval; inability to suppress task-irrelevant representations could give rise to intrusions of inappropriate memories and increased rate of forgetting, (b) cognitive control deficits during retrieval may be differentially affected by familial predisposition to SZ or BD. We examined episodic memory in relatives of patients with SZ (SZ-R) (n=15) or BD (BD-R) (n=17) compared to healthy controls (n=23) using the California Verbal Learning Test (CVLT) and the Doors and People Test (DPT). All relatives were free of any psychiatric morbidity and were matched to controls on age, sex, educational achievement and general intellectual ability. During the CVLT, both relatives' groups made significantly more perseverative recall errors than controls. However, intrusion errors were significantly increased in SZ-R only. SZ-R also showed increased rate of forgetting in the DPT while BD-R were comparable to controls. Familial predisposition to SZ, compared to that of BD, was associated with significantly greater impairment in cognitive control processes during episodic memory retrieval with some evidence of specificity for SZ in connection with mechanisms relating to increased forgetting.
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