The ability to order events in time plays a pervasive role in cognitive functions, but has only rarely been explored in patients with schizophrenia. Results we obtained recently suggested that patients have difficulties following events over time. However, this impairment concerned implicit responses at very short asynchronies, and it is not known whether it generalizes to subjective temporal order judgments. Here, we make a direct comparison between temporal order judgments and simultaneity/asynchrony discrimination in the same patients. Two squares were displayed on the screen either simultaneously or with an asynchrony of 24 to 96ms. In one session 20 patients and 20 controls made a temporal order judgment and in the other they discriminated between simultaneous and asynchronous stimuli. Controls recorded similar performances in the two tasks at asynchronies above 50ms, whereas patients displayed a sizeable impairment in temporal order judgment selectively. This impairment occurred in the easiest conditions, with the largest SOAs (Stimulus Onset Asynchronies) and only in the temporal order judgment. The results are the first evidence that patients with schizophrenia have a selective difficulty determining temporal order, even for asynchronies producing a clear perception of asynchrony. This impairment may mediate difficulties engaging oneself in everyday life events.
Keywords: Schizophrenia; Synchrony; Temporal order; Temporal window; Time; Time–event structure.
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