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Learn Mem. 2002 Nov-Dec;9(6):430-42.

Habit and skill learning in schizophrenia: evidence of normal striatal processing with abnormal cortical input.

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Clinical Brain Disorders Branch, National Institute of Mental Health, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, Maryland 20892, USA.


Different forms of nondeclarative learning involve regionally specific striatal circuits. The motor circuit (involving the putamen) has been associated with motor-skill learning and the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC) circuit (involving the caudate) has been associated with cognitive-habit learning. Efforts to differentiate functional striatal circuits within patient samples have been limited. Previous studies have provided mixed results regarding striatal-dependent nondeclarative learning deficits in patients with schizophrenia. In this study, a cognitive-habit learning task (probabilistic weather prediction) was used to assess the DLPFC circuit and a motor-skill learning task (pursuit rotor) was used to assess the motor circuit in 35 patients with schizophrenia and 35 normal controls. Patients with schizophrenia displayed significant performance differences from controls on both nondeclarative tasks; however, cognitive-habit learning rate in patients did not differ from controls. There were performance and learning-rate differences on the motor-skill learning task between the whole sample of patients and controls, however, analysis of a subset of patients and controls matched on general intellectual level eliminated learning rate differences between groups. The abnormal performance offset between patients with schizophrenia and controls in the absence of learning rate differences suggests that abnormal cortical processing provides altered input to normal striatal circuitry.

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