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Oculomotor Delayed Response Abnormalities in Young Offspring and Siblings at Risk for Schizophrenia

  • Vaibhav A. Diwadkar, John A. Sweeney, Dawn Boarts, Debra M. Montrose and Matcheri S. Keshavan...

Abstract

Individuals with schizophrenia are known to demonstrate cognitive and behavioral difficulties, particularly alterations in executive functions, including working memory. It is unclear whether these deficits reflect trait-related vulnerability to schizophrenia indicators and can be assessed by studying nonpsychotic relatives of patients with schizophrenia. In this study, we used an oculomotor delayed response (ODR) paradigm to examine spatial working memory in 37 “high-risk” child and adolescent offspring and siblings (age range=6–25 years) of patients with schizophrenia or schizoaffective disorder. Compared with 37 age- and sex-matched healthy controls (age range=6–23 years), high-risk subjects showed nonsignificantly greater errors in the ODR task at longer delay intervals. Statistical analyses suggested that performance improved with age in healthy control subjects, whereas it worsened with age in high-risk subjects. In both groups, the ODR errors were generally associated with poorer sustained attention (Continuous Performance Test: visuospatial d prime), some-what poorer executive function (Wisconsin Card Sorting Test), and elevated Heinrichs-Buchanan neurological soft signs scores. These findings indicate the presence of spatial working memory abnormalities in individuals at risk for schizophrenia. Furthermore, these abnormalities may be progressive in nature. The ODR task is a valuable indicator of prefrontal cortical function and spatial working memory and may be a potentially valuable marker for familial risk of schizophrenia.

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Corresponding author

Please direct correspondence to: Dr. Matcheri S. Keshavan, Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic, Room 984, 3811 O'Hara Street, Pittsburgh, PA 15213. Tel: 412-624-0814; Fax: 412-624-1459; E-mail: keshavanms@msx.upmc.edu.

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