Researchers Find Clues to Why Schizophrenia Causes Memory Impairment

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BrainResearchers have been searching for insight regarding how schizophrenia impairs working memory and cognition. Now one team of researchers believe they’ve found it with the discovery that an inability to ignore irrelevant stimuli may underlie the impaired working memory and cognition often experienced by individuals diagnosed with the condition.

“Our assumption was that understanding the impairments in the component processes of working memory-the ability to hold and manipulate information in the mind-among patients with schizophrenia could be fundamental to understanding not only cognitive function in the disorder, which is widespread and has debilitating consequences, but also the disorder itself,” said Teal Eich, one of the researchers, in a press release.

The study, published in Biological Psychiatry, evaluated patients diagnosed with schizophrenia by asking them to participate in an item recognition task while undergoing a functional magnetic resonance imaging scan. Then, they compared the findings with a control group of healthy volunteers who participated in the same task. The team focused primarily on analyzing potential activation differences in the ventro-lateral prefrontal cortex (VLPFC), a part of the brain associated with working memory.

“Our findings show that these patients have specific deficit in inhibiting information in working memory, leading to impaired distinctions between relevant and irrelevant thoughts,” said Eich. “This result may provide valuable insights into the potential brain mechanisms underlying the reasons why these affected individuals are unable to control or put out of mind certain thoughts or ideas.”

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