Working Memory Impairment across Psychotic disorders

James M. Gold, Deanna M. Barch, Leah M. Feuerstahler, Cameron S. Carter, Angus W. MacDonald, J. Daniel Ragland, Steven M. Silverstein, Milton E. Strauss, Steven J. Luck

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

33 Scopus citations


Background: Working memory (WM) has been a central focus of cognitive neuroscience research because WM is a resource that is involved in many different cognitive operations. The goal of this study was to evaluate the clinical utility of WM paradigms developed in the basic cognitive neuroscience literature, including methods designed to estimate storage capacity without contamination by lapses of attention. Methods: A total of 61 people with schizophrenia, 49 with schizoaffective disorder, 47 with bipolar disorder with psychosis, and 59 healthy volunteers were recruited. Participants received multiple WM tasks, including two versions each of a multiple Change Detection paradigm, a visual Change Localization paradigm, and a Running Span task. Results: Healthy volunteers performed better than the combined patient group on the visual Change Localization and running span measures. The multiple Change Detection tasks provided mixed evidence about WM capacity reduction in the patient groups, but a mathematical model of performance suggested that the patient groups differed from controls in their rate of attention lapsing. The 3 patient groups performed similarly on the WM tasks. Capacity estimates from the Change Detection and Localization tasks showed significant correlations with functional capacity and functional outcome. Conclusions: The patient groups generally performed in a similarly impaired fashion across tasks, suggesting that WM impairment and attention lapsing are general features of psychotic disorders. Capacity estimates from the Change Localization and Detection tasks were related to functional capacity and outcome, suggesting that these methods may be useful in a clinical context.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)804-812
Number of pages9
JournalSchizophrenia bulletin
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jun 18 2019

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Funding for this study was provided by National Institutes of Mental Health (NIMH) (ROI1s MH084840 (to D.M.B.), MH084826 (to C.S.C.), MH084821 (to J.M.G.), MH084861 (to A.W.M.) and MH084828 (to S.M.S.).

Funding Information:
Research Foundation. Ragland has received research grants from the NIH, the Brain and Behavior Research Foundation, the EJLB Foundation, and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. Silverstein has received research grants from the NIMH, the Brain ad Behavior Research Foundation, the van Ameringen Foundation, the Jacob and Valeria Langaloth Foundation, the New England Research Institutes, the New York State Office of Mental Health, the New Jersey Division of Mental Health and Addiction Services, Janssen Pharmaceutica, AstraZeneca, and Pfizer. Strauss and Feuerstahler have no conflicts to report.

Funding Information:
Gold has received grants from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), receives royalty payments from Brief Assessment of Cognition in Schizophrenia, and has acted as a consultant to Amgen, AstraZeneca, GlaxoSmithKline, Hoffman LaRoche, Merck, Pfizer, and Solvay. Barch has received grants from the Brain and Behavior Research Foundation and the NIH, and is a consultant for Pfizer, Amgen, Upsher-Smith, and Takeda on studies related to the treatment of negative symptoms in schizophrenia. Carter has received research grants from the NIH, the Brain and Behavior Foundation, the Burroughs Wellcome foundation, GlaxoSmithKline, and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and has been an external consultant for Lilly, Merck, Pfizer, Roche, and Servier. Luck has received research grants from the NIH, the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the Harry Frank Guggenheim Foundation. MacDonald has received research grants from the NIH and the Brain and Behavior

Publisher Copyright:
© The Author(s) 2018. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the Maryland Psychiatric Research Center. All rights reserved.


  • Capacity limitations
  • Cognitive impairment
  • Psychosis
  • Schizophrenia
  • Working memory


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