Auditory discrimination and frequency modulation learning in schizophrenia patients: Amphetamine within-subject dose response and time course

Neal R. Swerdlow, Savita G. Bhakta, Jo Talledo, Lindsay Benster, Juliana Kotz, Sophia Vinogradov, Juan L. Molina, Gregory A. Light

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background Auditory frequency modulation learning ('auditory learning') is a key component of targeted cognitive training (TCT) for schizophrenia. TCT can be effective in enhancing neurocognition and function in schizophrenia, but such gains require significant time and effort and elude many patients. Methods As a strategy to increase and/or accelerate TCT-induced clinical gains, we tested the dose- and time-course effects of the pro-attentional drug, amphetamine (AMPH; placebo, 2.5, 5 or 10 mg po; within-subject double-blind, order balanced) on auditory learning in schizophrenia patients [n = 32; M:F = 19:13; age 42.0 years (24-55)]. To understand predictors and/or mechanisms of AMPH-enhanced TCT, we also measured auditory fidelity (words-in-noise (WIN), quick speech-in-noise (QuickSIN)) and neurocognition (MATRICS comprehensive cognitive battery (MCCB)). Some measures were also acquired from age-matched healthy subjects (drug free; n = 10; M:F = 5:5). Results Patients exhibited expected deficits in neurocognition. WIN and QuickSIN performance at low signal intensities was impaired in patients with low v. high MCCB attention/vigilance (A/V) scores; these deficits were corrected by AMPH, maximally at 2.5-5 mg (d's = 0.79-1.29). AMPH also enhanced auditory learning, with maximal effects at 5 mg (d = 0.93), and comparable effects 60 and 210 min post pill. 'Pro-learning' effects of AMPH and AMPH-induced gains in auditory fidelity were most evident in patients with low MCCB A/V scores. Conclusions These findings advance our understanding of the impact of pro-attentional interventions on auditory information processing and suggest dose- and time-course parameters for studies that assess the ability of AMPH to enhance the clinical benefits of TCT in schizophrenia patients.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)140-148
Number of pages9
JournalPsychological medicine
Issue number1
Early online dateApr 14 2021
StatePublished - Apr 14 2021

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
Copyright © The Author(s) 2021. Published by Cambridge University Press.


  • Amphetamine
  • auditory processing
  • cognitive training
  • neurocognition
  • schizophrenia


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