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Deficits in memory and executive performance are well-established features of bipolar disorder and schizophrenia. By contrast, data on cognitive impairment in schizoaffective disorder are scarce and the findings are conflicting.
We used the Wechsler Memory Scale (WMS-III) and the Behavioural Assessment of the Dysexecutive Syndrome (BADS) to test memory and executive function in 45 schizophrenic patients, 26 schizomanic patients and 51 manic bipolar patients in comparison to 65 healthy controls. The patients were tested when acutely ill.
All three patient groups performed significantly more poorly than the controls on global measures of memory and executive functioning, but there were no differences among the patient groups. There were few differences in memory and executive function subtest scores within the patient groups. There were no differences in any test scores between manic patients with and without psychotic symptoms.
Schizophrenic, schizomanic and manic patients show a broadly similar degree of executive and memory deficits in the acute phase of illness. Our results do not support a categorical differentiation across different psychotic categories with regard to neuropsychological deficits.
Functional imaging studies using working memory tasks have documented both prefrontal cortex (PFC) hypo- and hyperactivation in schizophrenia. However, these studies have often failed to consider the potential role of task-related deactivation.
Thirty-two patients with chronic schizophrenia and 32 age- and sex-matched normal controls underwent functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) scanning while performing baseline, 1-back and 2-back versions of the n-back task. Linear models were used to obtain maps of activations and deactivations in the groups.
The controls showed activation in the expected frontal regions. There were also clusters of deactivation, particularly in the anterior cingulate/ventromedial PFC and the posterior cingulate cortex/precuneus. Compared to the controls, the schizophrenic patients showed reduced activation in the right dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC) and other frontal areas. There was also an area in the anterior cingulate/ventromedial PFC where the patients showed apparently greater activation than the controls. This represented a failure of deactivation in the schizophrenic patients. Failure to activate was a function of the patients' impaired performance on the n-back task, whereas the failure to deactivate was less performance dependent.
Patients with schizophrenia show both failure to activate and failure to deactivate during performance of a working memory task. The area of failure of deactivation is in the anterior prefrontal/anterior cingulate cortex and corresponds to one of the two midline components of the ‘default mode network’ implicated in functions related to maintaining one's sense of self.
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