Attentional cues in chronic schizophrenia: abnormal disengagement of attention

Nestor PG, Faux SF, McCarley RW, Penhune V, Shenton ME, Pollak S, Sands SF

J Abnorm Psychol 1992 Nov;101(4):682-9

PMID: 1430608


Posner’s (1980) reaction time (RT) paradigm was used to examine the engagement and disengagement operations of visual selective attention in patients with schizophrenia. In the 1st experiment, 14 medicated, chronic schizophrenic subjects (diagnosed by criteria of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders; American Psychiatric Association, 1987) and 15 age-matched normal control subjects made a speeded response to a target preceded by a valid, an invalid, or no cue. Control subjects showed the expected advantage and disadvantage in RT for valid and invalid cues, which suggests intact engagement and disengagement operations. For schizophrenic patients, valid cues also enhanced RT, but invalid cues did not slow RT. Similar results were found in the 2nd experiment. The failure of unpredictable, invalid cues to inhibit RT in chronic schizophrenia may be related to an abnormality in the disengagement operation of selective attention.