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Reduced Cognitive Control of a Visually Bistable Image in Schizophrenia

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  09 March 2011

Ryan McBain*
Mailman Research Center, McLean Hospital, Belmont, Massachusetts
Daniel J. Norton
Department of Psychology, Boston University, Boston, Massachusetts
Jejoong Kim
Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences, Seoul National University, Seoul, Korea
Yue Chen
Mailman Research Center, McLean Hospital, Belmont, Massachusetts Department of Psychiatry, Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts
Correspondence and reprint requests to: Ryan McBain, McLean Hospital, 115 Mill Street, Belmont, MA, 02478. E-mail:


Schizophrenia is associated with the inability to control and coordinate thoughts, actions, and perceptions. In conventional assessments of cognitive control, multiple sensory features of stimuli are concomitantly manipulated, introducing a confounding role of bottom-up perceptual information. To overcome this difficulty, we used an ambiguous visual stimulus (Necker cube), which allowed measurement of cognitive control with constant sensory input. Subjects (20 patients, 20 controls) were asked to control their perception of a transparent Necker cube by keeping a designated plane at the front or back of the stimulus, the position of which is perceptually bistable. Patients were highly deficient at controlling their perception of the cube. When a visual feature (the luminance contrast between a designated cube plane and the other planes) was systematically manipulated, an interaction was found whereby schizophrenia patients no longer under-performed on the highest contrast condition. These results show patients’ impairment of controlling perception in the absence of visual modulation and suggest the potential utility of perceptually based approaches to cognitive remediation in schizophrenia. (JINS, 2011, 551–556)

Brief Communications
Copyright © The International Neuropsychological Society 2011

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