Deficits in multiple systems of working memory in schizophrenia

Karen A. Spindler, Edith V. Sullivan, Vinod Menon, Kelvin O. Lim, Adolf Pfefferbaum

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Working memory, the ability to hold and manipulate information 'on- line' in a temporary memory store, is impaired in schizophrenia. This impairment may be characterized within the framework of two opposing theoretical models: (1) central executive as coordinator of component processes of working memory or (2) multiple independent systems of spatial and object memory. In order to test which of these models better explains the working memory deficit of schizophrenia, 14 schizophrenic patients and 12 age- and gender-matched control subjects performed tests of spatial memory (dot location), object memory (shapes, color dots) and a dual paradigm (dot location + shapes). If schizophrenia impairs the central executive, a group- by-task interaction would demonstrate excessively worse performance on the dual than single tasks in schizophrenics relative to controls; however, the absence of an interaction would be consistent with deficits in the multiple working memory systems. The schizophrenic group was significantly impaired on all measures, and both the schizophrenic and control performance was worse on the dual than the single tasks. Despite the schizophrenic group performance deficits on the single tasks, the extent of such deficit did not appear additive and contributive to the dual tasks. The lack of a group-by-task interaction provided no support for the central executive model of dysfunction. Rather, the results uphold the model of working memory deficits arising from compromise of multiple (here spatial and object), relatively independent systems, both of which are affected in schizophrenia.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1-10
Number of pages10
JournalSchizophrenia Research
Issue number1
StatePublished - Oct 17 1997

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This research was supported by MH 30854, the Norris Foundation, and the Department of Veterans Affairs.


  • Central executive model
  • Multiple frontal pathways model
  • Schizophrenia
  • Working memory


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