Enhancing links between visual short term memory, visual attention and cognitive control processes through practice: An electrophysiological insight.
Schizophrenia is characterized by a substantial slowing of manual response times and by impairments in attention. However, prior research has not investigated whether attention itself is slowed in schizophrenia, and this was the goal of the present study. In Experiment 1, the N2pc component of the event-related potential waveform-an electrophysiological correlate of the focusing of attention-was recorded from 24 schizophrenia spectrum patients and 13 control subjects. Although behavioral response times were delayed by over 100 ms in the patient group, the onset latency of the N2pc component was virtually identical across groups, and no reduction in N2pc amplitude was observed in the patient group. In Experiment 2, a new cueing paradigm was developed to provide a behavioral measure of the speed of attention in 22 schizophrenia spectrum patients and 13 control subjects. We found that the average time required to allocate attention to a cued location was only 19 ms greater for the patient group than for the control group, with most patients within the range of the control subjects. Together, these experiments revealed little or no slowing of the allocation of visual-spatial attention in patients with schizophrenia. Thus, the mechanisms responsible for allocating attention to salient visual targets appear to be largely unaffected by the illness, and the well documented slowing of manual response times in schizophrenia cannot easily be explained by a slowing of attention.