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Schizophrenia is a complex disorder involving deficits in both cognitive and emotional processes. Specifically, a marked deficit in cognitive control has been found, which seems to increase when dealing with emotional information.
With the aim of exploring the possible common links behind cognitive and emotional deficits, two versions of the emotional Stroop task were administered.
In the cognitive-emotional task, participants had to name the ink colour (while ignoring the meaning) of emotional words. In contrast, the emotional-emotional task consisted of emotional words superimposed on emotional faces, and the participants had to indicate the emotional valence of the faces. Fifty-eight participants (29 in-patients diagnosed with schizophrenia and 29 controls) took part in the study.
Patients and controls showed similar response times in the cognitive-emotional task; however, patients were significantly slower than controls in the emotional-emotional task. This result supports the idea that patients show a more pronounced impairment in conflict modulation with emotional content. Besides, no significant correlations between the tasks and positive or negative symptoms were found. This would indicate that deficits are relatively independent of the clinical status of patients. However, a significant correlation between the emotional-emotional task and cognitive symptoms was found.
These findings suggest a restricted capacity of patients with schizophrenia to deal with the attentional demands arising from emotional stimuli.