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Schizophr Bull. 2008 Jul;34(4):619-28. doi: 10.1093/schbul/sbn038. Epub 2008 May 16.

Building a clinically relevant cognitive task: case study of the AX paradigm.

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Department of Psychology, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, MN 55455, USA.


Tasks developed for basic cognitive neuroscience are often ill suited for experimental psychopathology. The development of the expectancy variant of AX continuous performance task to test theories about context processing in schizophrenia is used as an illustration of how this has been done in one research program. Four design principles are recommended: tasks should (1) have a foundation in existing literature and therefore stay as close as possible to an existing task; (2) be simple, which is frequently accomplished by paring down a task to evaluate the function of interest; (3) probe a mechanism of interest, with conditions that selectively manipulate this mechanism; and (4) have the potential to distinguish a specific deficit on the mechanism of interest from a generalized impairment. Data from a number of studies support several aspects of context-processing theory; however unpredicted results have also been reported. The development of the expectancy AX paradigm continues, and future developments that may enhance its usefulness are also described.

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