Habitual prospective memory in schizophrenia

Elvevåg, Brita; Maylor, Elizabeth A.; Gilbert, Abigail L.
January 2003
BMC Psychiatry;2003, Vol. 3, p9
Academic Journal
Background: Prospective memory (PM), the act of remembering that something has to be done in the future without any explicit prompting to recall, provides a useful framework with which to examine problems in internal-source monitoring. This is because it requires distinguishing between two internally-generated processes, namely the intention to perform an action versus actual performance of the action. In habitual tasks, such as taking medicine every few hours, the same PM task is performed regularly and thus it is essential that the individual is able to distinguish thoughts (i.e., thinking about taking the medicine) from actions (i.e., actually taking the medicine). Methods: We assessed habitual PM in patients with schizophrenia by employing a laboratory analogue of a habitual PM task in which, concurrently with maneuvering a ball around an obstacle course (ongoing activity), participants were to turn over a counter once during each trial (PM task). After each trial, participants were asked whether they had remembered to turn the counter over. Results: Patients with schizophrenia made a disproportionate number of errors compared to controls of reporting that a PM response had been made (i.e., the counter turned over) after an omission error (i.e., the counter was not turned over). There was no group difference in terms of reporting that an omission error occurred (i.e., forgetting to turn over the counter) when in fact a PM response had been made. Conclusion: Patients with schizophrenia displayed a specific deficit distinguishing between two internally-generated sources, attributable to either poor source monitoring or temporal discrimination.


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