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Schizophr Res. 2006 Oct;87(1-3):185-90. Epub 2006 Jun 5.

Transient and executive function working memory in schizophrenia.

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University of California, San Diego, Department of Psychiatry, 140 Arbor Drive, San Diego, CA 92103, USA.


Transient working memory requires attention and temporary storage of information, whereas executive function working memory requires additional mental manipulation of that information. Working memory impairment is common in schizophrenia patients, but only some studies have found differential impairment in executive function working memory compared to transient working memory. We measured both types of working memory using the Digit Span forward (DF) and backward (DB) tasks in a large sample of schizophrenia patients (n=267) and normal comparison subjects (n=82); in the patients, we also examined associations between performance on the Digit Span tasks and Letter-Number Sequencing (LNS), a putative executive function working memory test. Compared to healthy subjects, the schizophrenia patients showed impairment in the medium effect size range on both DF (d=-0.55) and DB (d=-0.68). DB scores predicted LNS performance, whereas DF scores did not. Worse negative symptoms were associated with worse performance on DF, DB and LNS. These results do not reflect differential executive function working memory dysfunction in schizophrenia, but appear to support transient and executive function working memory as separable constructs.

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