The goal of this 5-year project is to discover the specific mechanisms that underlie the attention and working memory deficits that are central features of schizophrenia. These impairments contribute to the functional disability of the disorder, are likely related to genetic risk for the illness, and are largely unaffected by antipsychotic treatment. This translational research program involves collaboration between a clinical research laboratory and a team of basic cognitive scientists with expertise in attention and working memory. Our approach is to use the concepts and methods of contemporary cognitive neuroscience to subdivide the constructs of attention and working memory into individual subcomponents so that specific, falsifiable hypotheses can be constructed. The proposal includes 4 interrelated specific aims.
In Aim 1, we examine the hypothesis that the illness compromises the ability to use goals to control attention, leading to deficits in perception, working memory and response selection.
In Aim 2, we examine the interactions of attention and working memory and examine how impairments in each impact the other system.
In Aim 3, we test the hypothesis that the illness compromises the ability to rapidly form precise working memory representations, thereby degrading behavioral performance.
In Aim 4, we address individual differences in working memory and attentional performance among patients in order to determine whether patients vary along a single severity of impairment continuum or instead, differ in kind. Behavioral and neurophysiological experimental paradigms were chosen for their ability to isolate specific attention and working memory processes, yielding large, distinctive patterns of results in normal subjects, thereby increasing the opportunity to observe specific, interpretable deficits in SC. These data will provide new insight into the cognitive/neural systems that are impaired in SC, potentially clarifying the nature of the phenotype, and provide new targets for pharmacological treatment.

Public Health Relevance

Most patients with schizophrenia suffer from significant disability for most of their adult lives. Impairments in attention and working memory have been shown to play an important role in determining the extent of disability that patients experience. This research program is designed to increase understanding of the specific processes that are involved in these important areas of cognitive impairment.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH)
Research Project (R01)
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Study Section
Adult Psychopathology and Disorders of Aging Study Section (APDA)
Program Officer
Breiling, James P
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University of Maryland Baltimore
Schools of Medicine
United States
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Luck, Steven J; Gaspelin, Nicholas (2017) How to get statistically significant effects in any ERP experiment (and why you shouldn't). Psychophysiology 54:146-157
Kreither, Johanna; Lopez-Calderon, Javier; Leonard, Carly J et al. (2017) Electrophysiological Evidence for Hyperfocusing of Spatial Attention in Schizophrenia. J Neurosci 37:3813-3823
Erickson, Molly A; Albrecht, Matthew A; Robinson, Benjamin et al. (2017) Impaired suppression of delay-period alpha and beta is associated with impaired working memory in schizophrenia. Biol Psychiatry Cogn Neurosci Neuroimaging 2:272-279
Beck, Valerie M; Luck, Steven J; Hollingworth, Andrew (2017) Whatever You Do, Don't Look at the . . .: Evaluating Guidance by an Exclusionary Attentional Template. J Exp Psychol Hum Percept Perform :
Erickson, Molly A; Albrecht, Matthew; Ruffle, Abigail et al. (2017) No association between symptom severity and MMN impairment in schizophrenia: A meta-analytic approach. Schizophr Res Cogn 9:13-17
Gaspelin, Nicholas; Leonard, Carly J; Luck, Steven J (2017) Suppression of overt attentional capture by salient-but-irrelevant color singletons. Atten Percept Psychophys 79:45-62
Leonard, Carly J; Robinson, Benjamin M; Hahn, Britta et al. (2017) Altered spatial profile of distraction in people with schizophrenia. J Abnorm Psychol 126:1077-1086
Sawaki, Risa; Kreither, Johanna; Leonard, Carly J et al. (2017) Hyperfocusing of attention on goal-related information in schizophrenia: Evidence from electrophysiology. J Abnorm Psychol 126:106-116
Bengson, Jesse J; Luck, Steven J (2016) Effects of strategy on visual working memory capacity. Psychon Bull Rev 23:265-70
Kappenman, Emily S; Luck, Steven J (2016) Best Practices for Event-Related Potential Research in Clinical Populations. Biol Psychiatry Cogn Neurosci Neuroimaging 1:110-115

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