Everyday action in schizophrenia: performance patterns and underlying cognitive mechanisms.
Executive dysfunction has been extensively described in schizophrenia and has been found to correlate with the negative symptoms of the disease. However, executive dysfunction is usually assessed by cognitive tests, and these are not necessarily good predictors of an individual's daily functioning. This study aimed to discover whether executive dysfunction in schizophrenia can be measured by analyzing a daily routine such as cooking a meal. Behavior was scored on the basis of the optimal sequence of macrostructures (order of dishes) and microsteps (order of actions) that must be performed to prepare the meal in a minimum of time and with the smallest delay between the completion of the first and last dishes. The results showed that patients with schizophrenia make macrostructure but not micro-step sequencing errors. The number of repetitions and omissions and the delay between the completion of the first and last dish were all greater in patients than in control subjects. In patients with schizophrenia, but not in normal controls, these behavioral malfunctions were significantly correlated with both negative symptoms and performance on the executive tasks. Poor performance on the memory tests was not correlated with the behavioral malfunction. Therefore, daily functioning in schizophrenia may be specifically influenced by executive dysfunction in schizophrenia, and this can be quantitatively assessed with a behavioral scale of action sequences.