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Schizophr Res. 2011 Sep;131(1-3):219-23. doi: 10.1016/j.schres.2011.06.001. Epub 2011 Jun 23.

Attentional disengagement from emotional stimuli in schizophrenia.

Author information

  • 1University of Maryland School of Medicine, Department of Psychiatry and Maryland Psychiatric Research Center, Baltimore, MD 21228, USA. gstrauss@mprc.umaryland.edu


Previous research indicates that abnormal attention-emotion interactions are related to symptom presentation in individuals with schizophrenia. However, the individual components of attention responsible for this dysfunction are unclear. In the current study we examined the possibility that schizophrenia patients with higher levels of negative symptoms (HI-NEG: n=14) have greater difficulty disengaging attention from unpleasant stimuli than patients with low negative symptoms (LOW-NEG: n=18) or controls (CN: n=27). Participants completed an exogenous emotional cueing task that required them to focus on an initial emotional or neutral cue and subsequently shift attention to a separate location outside of foveal vision to detect a target stimulus (letter). Results indicated that HI-NEG patients had greater difficulty disengaging attention from unpleasant stimuli than CN or LOW-NEG patients; however, behavioral performance did not differ among the groups for pleasant stimuli. Higher self-reported trait negative affect was also associated with greater difficulty disengaging attention from unpleasant stimuli. Abnormalities in disengaging attention from unpleasant stimuli may thus play a critical role in the formation and maintenance of both negative symptoms and trait negative affect in individuals with schizophrenia.

Copyright © 2011 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.

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