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Neuroscience. 2007 Jun 8;146(4):1474-83. Epub 2007 Apr 19.

Temporal modeling demonstrates preserved overlearning processes in schizophrenia: an fMRI study.

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Department of Psychiatry and Psychotherapy, Friedrich-Schiller-University Jena, Philosophenweg 3, 07740 Jena, Germany.


Working memory (WM) deficits are a core feature of schizophrenia. However, it has not been examined whether these deficits are related to altered temporal dynamics of information acquisition and changes in executive cognitive control. Therefore, the present study intended to quantify and model the dynamic process of information acquisition during continuous overlearning of WM information. It also aimed at investigating the relation between overlearning-associated change in behavioral performance and brain activity. Thirteen schizophrenic patients and 13 healthy volunteers were studied with functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) while performing a recently developed overlearning paradigm [Koch K, Wagner G, von Consbruch K, Nenadic I, Schultz C, Ehle C, Reichenbach J, Sauer H, Schlösser R (2006) Temporal changes in neural activation during practice of information retrieval from short-term memory: An fMRI study. Brain Res 1107:140-150]. Consistent with the earlier study, short-term learning of stimulus material was associated with significant performance improvements and exponential signal decreases in a fronto-parieto-cerebellar network both in schizophrenic patients and in healthy volunteers. Against expectation patients exhibited stronger signal decreases relative to controls in anterior cingulate (Brodmann area (BA) 32), middle and superior temporal (BA 37, BA 22), superior frontal (BA 8/9, BA 6) and posterior parietal regions (BA 40). Furthermore, the individually modeled exponential decay rate of the blood oxygenation level-dependent signal in the right dorsolateral prefrontal cortex was significantly correlated with exponential decrease in mean behavioral response times in healthy controls while a statistical trend emerged in patients. A relative hyperactivation in the patient group was observable only at the start of the learning process and diminished with continued overlearning. This effect might indicate a gradual reduction of recruited neuronal resources and a practice-associated activation normalization in patients with schizophrenia. Our data suggest that in subacute patients learning and associated decreases in cerebral activation brought about by short-term practice are left unimpaired.

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